New figures revealing the depth of Greenwich’s own “housing crisis” show that 40 per cent of current applicants for council housing have been on the waiting list for more than five years.

The statistics, uncovered by a Freedom Of Information request, show that as of December 2019,  32.61 per cent – or 6,669 residents – have been waiting for a council home for between five and ten years.

A further 6.24 per cent, or 1,276 residents, have been on the list for ten years or longer.

While a shortage of council-housing has been a long-term issue for boroughs across London, including Greenwich, the authority’s housing chief has backed the council to make inroads into the shortage with plans to build 750 council homes in the coming years.

Cllr Chris Kirby, the council’s cabinet member for housing, pointed the finger at Government policies such as a cap on council-borrowing for housing projects as a reason for the current lag.

“The Royal Borough of Greenwich believes strongly in council homes and we know that building genuinely affordable, social-rented homes is the only way out of the housing crisis,” he said.

“However, we have had a series of governments that have prevented councils and housing associations from being able to provide the number of houses that are needed.

“Thanks to the limit on borrowing finally being lifted, and money from the Mayor of London, we’ve now started Greenwich Builds – our biggest council home building programme in a generation.

“We aim to have 750 under construction by 2022, allowing us to house many of the people most in need in our borough, at social rents, which are far below the private market rate.

“After so many years of our hands being tied, we’re delighted we can now finally start building council homes which we know are so desperately needed.

“It is going to take a great many years to readdress the balance and house all the people who need a home, but we are 100 per cent committed.”

The updated figures also show the overall number of people on the authority’s waiting list has risen to 20,449, up from 17,000 the year before.

The average waiting time for a three-bedroom home ballooned in that time too, from 22 months in 2017/18 to 37 months last fiscal year.  

The average waiting time for all properties – ranging from one-bedroom studios to four-bedrooms or larger – was 32.25 months in 2018/19 – more than 2017/18 (26.5 months) and 2016/17 (28.25 months).

The council operates a choice-based letting scheme, where applicants bid for properties they are interested in.

Applicants can remain registered until they obtain accommodation of their choice, meaning some won’t bid until what they want is available.

Applicants are also ranked in different categories depending on their level of need, with Cllr Kirby saying the majority of applicants were classed as “C”, or no priority.

“We are very aware that there are more people looking for council and housing association homes in Royal Greenwich than there are properties available, and as a result the council has to allocate homes to people who are most in need,” he said.

“When a person is placed on the housing list in Royal Greenwich, based on our allocation policy they will be put into one of four bands – A, B1, B2 and C. The majority of housing applicants sit within band C with no priority, so this will naturally lead to a longer waiting time for most people on the list.”