Housing 'emergency' as waiting lists for homes rise more than 50% across North East

The waiting list in the North East is now at its highest level since 2012. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The North East is in the grip of a housing “emergency” that is leaving struggling families stuck on lengthy waiting lists and in poor standard homes, according to a leading charity.

Shelter has called for drastic action after it was revealed the waiting list for council houses has spiralled dramatically over the last two years. It now wants more and safer homes delivered across the region.

The number of households on a waiting list for social housing across the North East jumped from 50,453 in 2022 to 75,985 in 2023.

It means the waiting list is now at its highest level since 2012. With a whopping 51% increase from 2022-23 - the rise is itself higher than anywhere else in England.

The national average increase in demand over the same time period is just 6%.

North East social housing waiting lists in descending order

Northumberland – 12,434

Newcastle – 12,072

County Durham – 10,831

Gateshead – 10,001

South Tyneside – 9,749

Sunderland – 9,237

Redcar and Cleveland – 2,555

North Tyneside – 2,169

Middlesbrough – 1,930

Stockton-on-Tees – 1,921

Hartlepool – 1,662

Darlington – 1,424

(Source: Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

According to Shelter, the rise in rental rates in the private housing sector has been pushing a larger number of people towards social housing, as people struggle with the rising cost of living.

Poverty rates across the region have also risen over recent years.

The charity also warned that tens of thousands of people are “trapped in homes with terrible conditions such as damp, mould, and disrepair".

Shelter claims that there are 23,775 households in privately rented accommodation classed as ‘non-decent’ in our region, and 10,213 in socially rented homes that failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard, according to figures from 2021/22.

In Sunderland, a staggering 523% increase was seen in the length of the social housing waiting list. This was the biggest growth in the North East, taking the number of households on the list in the authority area from 1,483 to 9,237.

Neighbouring authority South Tyneside’s rose from 3,146 to 9,749, while Newcastle’s nearly doubled from 6,149 to 12,072.

Tracy Guy, strategic lead at Shelter North East, said: “The housing emergency is ruining lives across the North East.

"We hear horror stories of people’s dire housing situations, people with damp and mould problems, people who can’t find anywhere to live, private renters who are too terrified to ask for basic repairs for fear of eviction – the same stories day in and day out. 

“For a long time, people have seen housing as a ‘southern’ problem, but the reality is we are facing the same issues all across the North East.

"Ahead of this year’s elections, we need to get politicians to sit up and take notice, and to hear the voices of the people in our region who deserve better.

“No political party can consider itself ready to lead the country unless it is willing to tackle housing and homelessness head-on. We need all politicians to listen and act. The families and people living in the North East need better, safer housing, and the only way to do that is to build more social homes and make renting safer and affordable.”

Asked why the North East had seen such a spike in demand compared to other regions, Ms Guy said: “The North East private rental housing market has traditionally been cheaper than other areas, there were rents that people could afford to let while they were on benefits. That is not the case anymore. We have sky-high rents now across the North East.”

Ms Guy added that councils and other housing providers needed ensure every house they own is available to live in, rather than being left empty because it is not up to standard.

A spokesperson from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said: “Last year was the highest on record for affordable housing delivery and since 2010 we have delivered over 696,100 new affordable homes across the country, including over 172,600 homes for social rent.

"We are committed to building more homes and we are on track to meet our manifesto commitment to build 1 million homes over this Parliament.

“In addition to boosting supply, our landmark Renters (Reform) Bill will deliver a fairer private rented sector, abolishing section 21 evictions and holding landlords who have failed to keep properties free of serious hazards, such as damp and mould, to account.”

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