Large families face 19-year wait for social housing in Redbridge

Large families on the waiting list for social housing in Redbridge face an average wait of almost two decades.

About 7,000 residents are on the local housing register in the hope of moving into one of the borough’s 9,300 social-rent or affordable homes.

Families needing a home with four or more beds are now likely to wait an average of 19 years, while those needing a two-beds face an average of eight years.

Discussing the challenges of a refreshed five-year housing strategy, interim director of housing Alan Caddick told Redbridge’s Place Scrutiny Committee that the council is building “about 330 properties” at the moment.

He agreed the council is unable to deliver housing for families in need, adding that the number of affordable homes is “very, very low”.

He told the committee: “It’s a stark reality that people will be waiting that long and, in that time, their situation will change pretty significantly – that’s the sad reality.“

Objectives for the new housing strategy are to increase the housing supply, prevent the causes of homelessness, improve the quality of council-managed homes and put “residents first”.

Challenges to delivering new council homes include the failure of the council’s wholly-owned developer Redbridge Living, scrapped last year without starting any homes.

Less than one hundred of the 600 affordable homes the council announced in 2019 have been built so far, with estimated costs rising from £66million to £201million.

As of September this year, 2,872 households are in council-funded temporary housing because they are unable to afford private rent in the borough.

Committee member Sam Gould asked whether the strategy will aim to keep families who are stuck in temporary housing for “years” from being moved far from their schools, jobs and support networks.

Mr Caddick responded: “A whole range of different things make it difficult for us to house people in the borough.

“We will be doing what we can to find more [accommodation], build more [homes] and do what we can upstream to prevent homelessness in the first place – but we’ve got to think about what’s available.”

Cabinet member for housing and homelessness Vanisha Solanki said the challenges of the housing crisis are London-wide.

She said: “With the current markets at play it’s going to be difficult, housing is one of the most difficult services in the council.

“It’s about taking residents on that journey with us so we can help them help themselves. “

Addressing the “putting residents first” objective, Cllr Sadiq Kothia said he was concerned about the “cold” and “not very understanding” tone that housing officers use with residents who are in “desperate situations”.

Mr Caddick agreed, saying: “I’ve been here six weeks and I want to assure you that I will get quicker responses to casework being put forward.

“But we’ve also got to be empathetic in what we do and I want to see that in our responses and what residents should expect from now on.”

The quality of homes managed by Redbridge has also recently come under fire, with the Regulator of Social Housing issuing a public warning to the council over its failure to put an “effective system” in place to manage its housing stock.

However, when Cllr Shah Ali attempted to ask questions about the regulatory failure, the council’s acting operational director of assurance Pervinder Sandhu interrupted the committee to say that the topic was “not on today’s agenda”.

Mr Caddick said the quality of Redbridge-managed housing quality is facing a “number of problems”, including around 16 per cent failing to meet the legal requirements of the government’s Decent Homes Standard.

The council’s housing asset management strategy has not been renewed since it expired in 2018.

A consultation on the borough’s housing strategy for 2023-28 will begin in December this year.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter