At 31st March 2021, 178,260 applications were recorded on local authority or common housing register housing lists, an 8% increase, or 13,314 more households than 2020, with the figure in the latest year likely to have been impacted on by the COVID-19 pandemic given the reduction in the overall number of local authority lets during 2020-21 due to COVID-19, although the latest figure is 12% below the 202,235 applications recorded in 2008.
Of the 178,260 households on local authority or common housing register lists, 33,400 were recorded as being on transfer lists and 144,900 on waiting lists for entry into social housing.
However, 7 out of the 26 local authorities with housing stock did not operate separate waiting and transfer lists. In this report, all of the households on the lists of these authorities are treated as being on the waiting lists and none on the transfer list. This means that the waiting list figure is over-estimated and the transfer list figure is under-estimated. Also, the separate reporting of waiting and transfer lists by local authorities has changed over time, which means the historic trends are not consistent or reliable. This contributes to the trends illustrated in Chart 16.
The chart shows a gradual drop in the total number of applicants on a local authority or common housing register list between 2008 and 2018, after which the number of applicants has since increased each year to 2021, with the figure in the latest year likely to have been impacted on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While numbers of applications may be recorded accurately within each authority, there is difficulty in recording actual numbers of people wishing to access all social housing and also in determining their current tenure.
In addition to the multiple-counting of people who apply to more than one local authority, households often apply for both council and RSL housing in their desired area, although this has become less of an issue over time due to the increase in the number of Common Housing Registers.
Some applicants may no longer need a social house if, for example, they take up tenancies with other housing providers, however they may not be removed from the housing list immediately. Chart 16 shows, alongside the figures collected for this publication, survey estimates from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) and MORI.
The SHS and MORI estimates are population based, which means they cover all households on housing lists in Scotland, whereas those related to Local Authority and Common Housing Registers do not include the 6 local authorities (including Glasgow) which have transferred all of their housing stock to Registered Social Landlords.
In addition, the MORI and SHS estimates asked respondents whether they were on any housing lists, so they are not affected by the double counting issue.
The SHS and MORI results may therefore provide a more realistic estimate of applicants on housing lists in Scotland, although they are based on sample surveys of private residential properties and so may exclude some people living in communal establishments or in particular types of temporary accommodation.
A question about being on a housing list was introduced to the SHS in 2013 and these questions are asked of the random adult part of the survey. However, note that changes were made to the 2017 questions with the aim to better capture households who are using choice based lettings when seeking social housing, and the 2020 survey was conducted by telephone due to COVID-19 restrictions. These may affect comparisons over time, and therefore some caution should be used when comparing results to earlier years. Results for 2020 show that an estimated 90,000 (4 per cent) of households were on a housing list.
Further detailed figures are available in the housing lists Excel webtables.
The Scottish Household Survey has asked a question since 2013 on whether the random adult interviewed is on a housing list. Scotland and local authority estimates up to the year 2019 are published in the SHS Data Explorer. In addition, Scottish Household Survey results for the year 2020 have recently been published, although these results can't be directly compared to previous years due to the impacts of the change to a telephone survey approach due to the pandemic.
Official statistics obtained from an Ipsos MORI Omnibus Survey carried out in February 2011 estimate the number of households which contain someone who is currently on a social housing list. These statistics provide an estimate which eliminates the double counting included in the administrative data collected annually from councils and housing associations.
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