By: Grainne Cuffe BBC Local Government Correspondent
A severe housing shortage is leaving people waiting for a council home for years, with one resident joining a waiting list in 1975.
An applicant for a Lambeth-owned flat has waited 44 years for a permanent home, according to a Freedom of Information request.
Nearly 30,000 other people are also waiting for a council home in the borough.
Lambeth council said the oldest applications “include people who are adequately housed and therefore have no priority for social housing, and who are not actively seeking rehousing but remain on the list at their own request.”
The newly obtained figures revealed that nearly one third of households (10,009) have been waiting for a permanent home for between five and nine years – more than 5,000 have been waiting for more than 10 years.
The council said it faces a “severe and serious housing crisis” and that between 40 and 60 people join the list every week, while only 20 homes become available.
A spokesperson said there is a “critical shortage of available properties” in the borough and that homes are allocated on the basis of need rather than waiting times.
He added: “The properties that do become available are allocated to the highest priority households – for example, people who are homeless, who live in cramped conditions, or who have a medical condition made worse by their current home.
“Applicants in a lower priority band are not in such immediate housing need and so have less chance of being allocated a council house.”
The average waiting time in the borough for a one-bed in 2016/17 was 2.9 years, 3.4 years in 2017/18, and 3.6 years in 2018/19.
For a two-bed, it was 4.5 years in 2016/17, five years in 2017/18, and 5.5 years in 2018/19.
For a three-bed it was 4.4 years in 2016/17, 5.7 years in 2017/18 and 5.2 years in 2018/19.
And for a four plus bed it was 5.8 years in 2016/17, 4.8 years in 2017/18 and 6.5 years in 2018/19.
As of October 2019, 6,284 households (20 per cent of total) have been waiting for a permanent home for more than three years, 10,009 (31 per cent of the total) have been waiting for between five and nine years, while 5,266 (17 per cent of the total) have been waiting for more than 10 years.
The average overall waiting time for all households housed in 2017/18 was 2.5 years, 4.3 years in 2017/18 and 4.6 years for households permanently housed in 2018/19.
A council spokesperson said: “Lambeth is doing all it can to tackle the housing crisis, which has left 30,000 on the waiting list and over 2,000 families – including 5,000 children – homeless and housed in temporary accommodation by the council.
“This includes providing more homes – include the 70 new council-rent homes at Lollard Street.
“But, with almost 30,000 people on our waiting list and a critical shortage of available properties, we can’t offer a home to most of the people who apply to us.
“Social housing is not allocated based simply on ‘waiting time’, but on level of need, and not everyone on the housing register is actively seeking housing.
“We periodically write to applicants to ask if they still want to remain on the list, and provided they respond to these letters and remain living in Lambeth, they can stay on the housing register for as long as they like.”
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