‘Council housing backlog ‘could take 17 years to clear’

By Alan Murdie, Chairman, Nucleus & Ealing Advice

The need for proper housing advice and support to stem a worsening housing crisis is demonstrated by a new report.

Rehousing individuals and families currently on the waiting list for council housing could take up to 17 years the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accounting (Cipfa) has revealed.

The Cipfa report Housing 360  showS  there were on average more than 1.2 million households on council waiting lists nationally between 2013 and 2018.

Unfortunately,  over the same period, the number of council-owned properties dropped by 84,000 – a reduction of almost 5% across England.

The provision of housing by the not-for-profit and charitable sectors is also suffering because income is falling off – there will be fewer suitable dwellings for referral and those remaining will face higher demand.


This gloomy prognosis very much reflects the situation which Nucleus has been finding Councils facing in London before the covid-19 outbreak; the likely expectation is that those in need of housing will increase after the lock-down is lifted, the restriction on possession and eviction proceedings being only temporary.

The biggest reduction in council housing has been in family-sized two-and three-bedroom properties. These categories also experienced the greatest growth in demand, and currently many families in priority need end up being housed far outside London.

To help avoid such outcomes it is important to:


  • Safeguard existing tenancies and licences;
  • Ensure people get as full advice as possible if facing possession or eviction proceedings;
  • promote understanding of the importance of court hearings;
  • promote understanding of how disrepair issues may set-off rent arrears;
  • Challenge official decisions listing single rooms as ‘flats’ by the Valuation Office Agency making occupiers liable to council tax which they often cannot afford;


Housing is an increasingly difficult and complex field, with new legislative provisions being added ever since  the Housing and Planning Act 2016. These include  the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018  applying to all new tenancies from  20 March 2020, and increases in council tax liabilities by way of the often random and arbitrary re-classification of certain existing Houses of Multiple Occupation as separate, multiple dwellings.

However, the considerable success in housing street homeless people in many urban districts during the pandemic shows what can be achieved when sufficient political attention is given to housing issues.

Sources: Public Finance 6 May 2020

  1. Legislation to look out for in 2020 … Renters Reform Bill: Abolition of Section 21

Details and timescales are yet to be confirmed, but the big thing that will happen when Parliamentary time allows is the Renters Reform Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech last year and expected to begin in 2020.

At issue is the Government’s commitment to abolishing Section 21, which has intensified the debate about the need to ensure that landlords have the ability to remove tenants who are not complying with their tenancy agreement or paying their rent. We are still awaiting the outcome of last year’s government consultation on a new housing court.

Many commentators are concerned about the unintended consequences of removing Section 21, and the risk to the private rented sector a ban on no fault evictions could have as landlords exit the market. Paul Shamplina, who describes the banning of Section 21 as the biggest legislative change to the private rented sector in a generation, says: “Combined with all the other changes, some landlords will feel that the length of time to gain possession of their property is too great a risk, so may decide to sell up – we have already seen this at Landlord Action. There must be a call for evidence on the implementation of a Housing Court.”

David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark echoes this sentiment: “If Section 21 is scrapped, Section 8 (eviction due to the tenancy agreement being broken) must be reformed and a new specialist housing tribunal created. Without this, supply will almost certainly fall which will have the consequential effect of raising rents and will further discourage new landlords from investing in the sector.”

From industry events to major legislative changes such as the abolition of Section 21 and the UK’s future relationship with the EU, 2020 is set to be another big year for landlords across the UK. Which challenges are you, as a landlord, most concerned about? Let us know via Twitter – @TotalLandlord