Ombudsman flags housing waiting lists 'backlog'

By Laura Sharman | 13 October 2021

The high number of families trying to join councils’ housing waiting lists has been highlighted by the local government and social care ombudsman.

Ombudsman Michael King said: ‘We understand that many council housing departments are under a lot of pressure as demand is outstripping availability of social housing and we are aware that in certain areas this unprecedented demand is creating a backlog.’

Mr King’s comments came as Birmingham City Council – the biggest in Europe – admitted it had a ‘significant backlog’ of applications to its housing register, with 500 applications being received a week.

His investigation into a complaint by one family, who waited six months for Birmingham to look at its situation, found the council struggling to process applications quickly enough.

The ombudsman said councils should ‘ideally’ consider applications within six weeks, far quicker than Birmingham’s current 22-week average.

It said the council was ‘already overwhelmed’ and told it to ‘take action to reduce injustice to future applicants’.

Birmingham said it had already acted to address its backlog by appointing seven extra officers and evaluating IT system enhancements.

However, a separate report today warned that the number of people on council housing waiting lists could double next year as COVID-related support schemes came to an end.

The research - commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Retained Council Housing - also revealed that one in 10 households were stuck on waiting lists for more than five years due to a ‘chronic shortage’ of affordable homes.

LGA housing spokesperson, Cllr David Renard, said: ‘Now is the time to reverse the decline in council housing over the past few decades.

'A programme of 100,000 social homes a year would shorten council housing waiting lists, reduce homelessness and cut carbon emissions while delivering a multi-billion long-term boost to the economy.’

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