A housing chief has highlighted a ‘desperate need’ for more affordable homes in Bolton as a report claims waiting lists are underestimating how many people require them.

National Housing Federation (NHF) analysis estimates the number of households in England in need of social housing is 1.6 million, 500,000 more than the 1.16 million households recorded on official waiting lists.

Bolton Council had 24,382 households on its waiting list at the end of March 2019, according to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics.

That was 23 per cent lower than the number waiting a year earlier.

However, the NHF said that some households have been on the waiting list for years and warned that the number of people in need of social housing is set to rise quickly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic with the furlough scheme scheduled to end in coming weeks.

Nationally, only 6,338 new social homes were built last year, a fall of 84 per cent since 2010.

Bolton At Home is the borough’s largest provider of social housing.

Noel Sharpe, deputy group chief executive officer at Bolton At Home, said: “This report highlights the need for more national investment in quality affordable housing to be at the heart of the social and economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

“Social landlords can help to tackle housing shortages locally and provide the health, employment and housing support that some people need to prosper.

“Everyone deserves a safe, secure and comfortable place to call home and we know that more affordable homes are desperately needed in Bolton.

“We want to build them in a way that benefits the whole community, helps families and local communities stay together, prevents people living in unsuitable conditions and reduces the risk of homelessness.”

The largest proportion of people on the ‘real social housing waiting list’ are in the private rented sector where there are 1.5 million people in need, the NHF analysis found.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the NHF, said: “Today’s report shows that the sharp end of the housing crisis is getting sharper, and at a rapid rate.

“Underinvestment in social housing has left us with virtually no affordable homes available for people on the lowest incomes.

“The real tragedy is that these are same people impacted the most by the coronavirus crisis, which had led to huge job losses for low income workers.

“When the government’s Job Retention Scheme and ban on evictions end, we are likely to see people in need of social housing skyrocket.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: “We do not recognise these figures which seem to be a major overestimation.

“Last week we announced the highest single funding commitment to affordable housing in a decade, unlocking a further £38bn in public and private investment in affordable housing.

“Between March 2010 and April 2019, we have delivered over 1.5 million new homes, including more than 450,000 affordable homes, and our new £12.2bn of investment will build up to 180,000 new homes across the country, half of which will be for affordable and social rent.”