Waiting list woes should top news agenda

BBC reports today of a spike in the number of people waiting to access affordable housing contain some stark statistics to stand up a pretty grim narrative. According to reports, more than 11,000 people joined council housing waiting lists in England between July to September last year, a rise of 12% on the previous quarter. Economic slowdown, the effect of the ‘right to buy’ policy on supply and a decline in housebuilding numbers are all cited as causes to address.

I think there is another underlying and (by its nature) under-acknowledged factor that transcends politics: social housing is not a top priority in this country. You only have to look at the lack of media coverage of the issue today to realise this (a Google News search of ‘housing waiting lists’ only returned detailed coverage of this on the BBC, and it is not on the website of the Local Government Association, who I assumed were the source of the story).

This is mystifying. A decent home (whether it is bought, part-owned or rented) meets a fundamental human need, and yet there are millions of people who do not have access to this. Such a crisis – which the Government admits it is – should be front page news every other day. This would force the issue to the top of the policy agenda. It is arguably more important than tuition fees, bankers’ bonuses and (certainly) whoever Jordan is married to/divorcing combined.

It may be the complexity of the issue that stops the media covering it more regularly or, worse, a belief that it doesn’t interest the key demographic they are targeting in the way house price stories do. In some way though, unless you are landed gentry or a multi-millionnaire (mere millionaires may struggle in some areas), this is an issue that affects every area of the country.

Admittedly, this story has emerged on a Saturday; maybe mine is a premature rant and the rest of the media will pick up the thread next week. I hope they do, as the housing crisis should be one of the campaigning issues of the year.

Government statistics on social housing provision broken down by local authority area can be found here.