it could take two and a half years to clear social housing waiting lists in county durham

Households in County Durham could have to wait up to 2.55 years before they’ll be able to live in an affordable social home, even if no new households joined the waiting list, according to new analysis of the latest affordable housing figures.   

Analysis by the National Housing Federation (NHF) has found that while 10,831 households were on the waiting list for social housing, only 4,252 new social housing lettings were available in 2022/23.   

At the current rate of lettings, and if no new households joined the list, this means that it could take another 2.55 years before every household currently on the waiting list can move into a suitable home that they can afford.  

Social housing lettings refer to homes which have been let at either social rent, which is typically 50% of market rents, or Affordable Rent, which is at least 20% below market rents – making them the only affordable option for many.

Across the country, the chronic shortage of genuinely affordable social homes has left many families stuck in unaffordable, unsuitable accommodation, cut off from local support networks, far from school or job opportunities or even facing homelessness.  

The consequences of this have been felt across County Durham as the housing crisis in England worsens.   

The effect this has on those on low incomes is devastating.

The shortage of affordable homes in County Durham means that more and more people have had to turn to living in expensive, insecure private rented homes. This has left many facing impossible choices as they struggle to balance rent with other essential bills, or risk facing homelessness. NHF research from 2019 revealed that nearly half of children in private rented homes are living in poverty.  

In 2022/23, for every new social home built in England, six households were accepted as homeless by their local council, while more children than ever before are living in temporary accommodation.

This shameful trend is also putting local councils under increasing financial pressure with councils spending £1.74bn to support households in temporary accommodation in 2022/23. This is only set to worsen, with recent research revealing that the number of children living in temporary accommodation is estimated to reach 150,000 by 2030.  

The widening gap between the demand for social housing and the availability of is not an anomaly in County Durham. It is the result of decades of underfunding and underinvestment in affordable homes by successive governments, which in turn has led to a chronic shortage of social housing and contributed to the housing crisis we’re in today.   

But this is a crisis that can be solved.

Housing associations are ambitious to do more to tackle this crisis, but it will take a long-term commitment from governments to address.

With a long-term plan in place, by 2035 we could:

  • fix child homelessness,
  • halve overcrowding,
  • provide the security of a social home for one million more people,
  • ensure a warm and decent home for seven million more families,
  • improve affordability,
  • boost productivity by ensuring every region has the homes it needs to grow.  

With the North East Mayoral election, and a general election approaching, access to affordable housing has become increasingly important among voters, with over half of Brits saying that the government should prioritise building social housing.  

believe housing is joining the NHF’s call for political parties to commit to a long-term national plan to solve the housing crisis to support the thousands of households in County Durham in desperate need of a safe, suitable and affordable home.  

Alan Smith, Chief Executive of believe housing, said: “It is not right that so many people are having to wait so long to secure the affordable home they need.   

“This forces many people to live in expensive private rented accommodation or in homes that don’t meet their needs.  

“As a sector we are facing challenges; extra regulations, a lack of clear Government policy, the cost of maintaining homes, and challenges delivering new ones.    

“But we keep working to move forward, and our partnership arrangements are paramount.    

“We need to build on existing strong and valued relationships, like with our local authority partner Durham County Council with which we share residents, space in communities, and objectives around community investment and social value.    

“As a delivery partner, on the ground, shoring up communities, with shared interests; our relationship is crucial for navigating the joint challenges we face together.   

‘Building strong relationships with our supply chain has proved invaluable in dealing with delivery and economic challenges.   

“As part of the North East Housing Partnership, we need to build similar relationships with the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority and the incoming Mayor.   

“And with a general election on the horizon, it has never been a more important time to work well with partners.   

“We are calling on all political parties to commit to a long-term plan for housing and for partners to work with us to improve the homes and health of residents.”