Thousands ‘drop off’ housing register after policy change

More than 2,500 people dropped off the waiting list between May and August
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Waltham Forest Town Hall
Waltham Forest Town Hall

More than 2,500 people “dropped off” Waltham Forest Council’s housing waiting list in just four months this year.

On 19th October, the council’s housing scrutiny committee heard 2,672 households left the register between May and August, cutting the total still waiting to 7,146.

A key reason for households dropping off appears to be a requirement to “re-register”, suspended during the pandemic and re-introduced in May.

More than one thousand of those who left the list this year were classed as at least “medium priority” for housing need.

In a written report, corporate director of housing strategy Modester Anucha wrote: “There are many reasons why people may choose not to re-register: they may have moved away or they believe they are unlikely to be offered housing.

“Most of the applicants leaving the register are in band five, our lowest priority band for those who are adequately housed.

“Those in Band 5 are not allowed to bid for properties, so it is very clear to this group that they have no prospect of being housed through the housing waiting list.

“The number of people applying each year far exceeds the supply of social housing and therefore most people applying will never be offered housing.”

Last year, the council received 3,101 new housing applications and allocated 677 homes.

The council overhauled its housing register in February last year, deeming its previous points-based system “over-complicated” and likely to give “unrealistic expectations” to larger households.

Changes included simplifying the points system into five bands, with the highest labelled “emergency priority” and the lowest “no priority”.

Committee member Tom Connor questioned whether the large drop in people on the register was partly caused by people losing hope in the new system.

He added: “We’re in a position where we used to think there were nine or ten thousand on the list, now we see there’s only 7,000.

“Is that linked to housing need or is that all the people in band five who threw their hands up and said ‘we’re not going to get it’?”

The committee recommended council officers undertake a more detailed review into whether people with real housing needs “fell out” of the system when the allocation system changed.