One year on from Grenfell, millions still stuck on housing waiting lists

// HA News

One year on from the tragic Grenfell fire, and many survivors are still waiting for a new home – but new analysis from Shelter reveals the situation is similarly stark right across the country. 

Over one million households in need of a social home are stuck on long waiting lists, often for years on end. Yet the number of social homes becoming available is extremely low. leading to a huge gap.

Shelter’s analysis shows there are 1.15m households on waiting lists, but only 290,000 social homes were made available last year – a difference of more than 800,000 homes. 

The gap is caused by a lack of new social homes being built, and the fact many existing homes are sold off through right-to-buy without the receipts being used to replace these homes, like-for-like. 

Despite the capital’s acute housing shortage, only six of the local authorities with the biggest gaps are in London – showing that this problem is nationwide, having spread to places such as Brighton, Blackpool and Strood.  

10 English local authorities with fewest available social homes compared to households on waiting list:

Local authority Number of households on the waiting list (2017) Number of social rent lettings available (2016/17) Gap of homes Number of households to a single home
Newham (London) 25,729 588 25,141 44
Merton (London) 9,581 270 9,311 35
City of London (London) 853 26 827 33
Kingston upon Thames (London) 9,732 300 9,432 32
Redbridge (London) 8,335 318 8,017 26
Brighton and Hove (South East) 24,392 949 23,443 26
Fylde (North West) 5,024 214 4,810 23
Medway (South East) 19,905 965 18,940 21
Islington (London) 18,033 884 17,149 20
Dacorum (East of England) 12,419 689 11,730 18


For those stuck on long lists, almost two-thirds (65%) are made to wait on lists for over a year. And a staggering 27% must wait more than five years.

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, said “The fact that one year on from Grenfell, some survivors are still homeless has totally shaken people’s trust in the safety net the state supposedly provides. And this is despite them being ‘fast-tracked’ outside the usual waiting list system, too. 

“Imagine then, how frustrating life must be for the millions of people elsewhere in the country who have been stuck on waiting lists, often for years on end. This is not just confined to London but happening right across the country, from Brighton to Blackpool. Families are unable to get settled and unable to get on with their lives.

“The Grenfell tragedy must mark a turning point in our nation’s approach to social housing and its tenants – we clearly need a bold new plan for social housing so families are not condemned to waiting lists but given safe, secure and affordable housing as quickly as possible.”

The real faces of Grenfell

Freddy Emmanuel, 56, is a part-time commercial engineer. He has been stuck on a west London waiting list for the past 18 years. He is currently privately renting nearby.

“I grew up here, went to school here, worked here. I have been on the waiting list for a solid 18 years. I’ve been homeless, in private renting or sofa surfing all that time. 

“Not having a settled place makes it hard to do anything, even getting letters delivered so you can get accepted for doctors is hard. I’m in my mid-50s and at this age I should be looking after my family and relaxing in the job that I’ve been doing for a long time but I can’t do any of that until I get my own place. 

“I feel that I should be helped by the council. My family has been in this borough for a long time and for me to stick in the area would be good for the community. I know a lot of people here and work with loads of charities. This is my neighbourhood.”

View The Latest Issue