At first glance it seems the government finally has a positive story to tell about the state house waiting list.
After the numbers exploded after Labour came to power in late 2017 – from just over 5,000 to a high of over 26,000 last year, the numbers appear to have peaked and begun a significant decline – down to 23,127 at the end of December 2022.
However its important to remember that this decrease in the waiting list is NOT because the government has suddenly begun an industrial-scale state house building programme which the country desperately needs. When Labour came to power in late 2017 there were 61,351 state house rentals. Today, five years later, there are 65,654 state house rentals – a net increase of just 4,403 state houses over five years. Pathetic!
If we include emergency or transitional housing (where the government takes out short term leases and local community housing providers (where the government assists CHP’s to provide housing) the total income related rental housing has increased from 63,315 to just 70,397 – an increase of just 7,082 over five years.
So why has the number of people on the state house waiting list dropped in the past year? Simply because the government has “managed” (aka booted) people off the list – “working with people to find out their actual housing needs” is how government ministers put it.
The big majority of those who left the waiting list in the December quarter did NOT go into state housing or into state-subsidised housing. Instead they left the list mainly by moving into private accommodation with 640 who “self-exited” – in other words gave up on ever getting a state house despite meeting the criteria to be on the list. One can imagine the frustration leading to people simply giving up on state housing and struggling on in private sector rentals and letting the government off the hook.
To complete the picture – in the December quarter last year 1,848 people were housed from the register while 2,331 tenancies were ended.
The picture from these figures is one of a huge churn of people on low-incomes moving house for a wide range of reasons related to poverty and inequality. The stability from decent, warm dry, affordable housing is simply not there. It’s not too cynical to say the Labour government, along with National, have no appetite for an industrial scale state house building programme because this would threaten the incomes of middle-class landlords both parties want for their votes. Labour is determined to keep state house numbers at just 3.6% of total housing stock and refuses to shift this back to the 5.4% it was in 1990.
Hence Labour’s focus is on transitional housing rather than long-term state housing and managing people off the state house waiting list – something Labour has in the past viciously, and quite rightly, attacked National for doing.
And to fund it’s modest increase in state houses the government is demolishing state houses and selling most of the land to private developers.
This is our modern Labour Party witt less than a half dozen MPs from working class backgrounds.