210,000 social rent homes lost from 2012-20, CIH reveals

Over 280,000 social rented homes have been lost since April 2012 while only 70,000 have been built to replace them, the CIH found.
Social Housing (Demo)

The number of social rent homes in England has fallen by 210,000 between 2012 and 2020, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has revealed in its annual UK Housing Review.

Over 280,000 council and housing association homes being let at social rent have been sold, converted to higher rents or demolished since April 2012, the review found, while only 70,000 new social rent homes have been built to replace them.

Right to Buy sales accounted for 121,000 social rented homes being lost, while 116,000 were converted to higher “affordable” rents.

The 2021 review warns that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to decrease the number of social rent homes further. Just 10,531 affordable homes were started under grant-funded programmes in the first half of 2020/21, compared with 17,980 the year before.

Although the government has promised 32,000 new social rent homes outside London over the next five years, the CIH has pointed out that this is just 4,000 more than in the previous five years and will not sufficiently replace homes that will be lost through future Right to Buy sales.

Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: “The Review shows the drastic effects that policy changes over the past few years have had on the supply of homes at lower ‘social’ rents.

“CIH has called for the investment needed to build 90,000 homes per year at social rents to address the backlog of housing need that has built up. It has also asked the government to suspend Right to Buy to help deal with the housing crisis, which the pandemic has only made worse.”

The CIH’s UK Housing Review is one of the main sources of information and analysis for housing professionals concerned with housing policy and finance.

This year’s UK Housing Review includes articles by leading analysts on a variety of housing issues, including whether it will be possible to “build back better” after COVID-19, planning reform, and the role housing must play in the UK’s net-zero target.

The Review also has 200 tables covering a wide range of housing data relating to tenure, social housing stock, housing expenditure and the private rented sector.

Mark Stephens, professor of urban studies at the University of Glasgow and one of the Review’s main authors said: “Our work shows that only 11% of new “affordable” homes built in England are at genuinely affordable social rents, compared with nearly 70% in Scotland and over 80% in Wales.

“In contrast to England, Scotland’s social rented stock has grown by 25,000 over the last five years. Scotland and Wales have both halted Right to Buy. The Review makes clear that building social rented homes addresses the most urgent housing needs and is the best use of public money.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “This is a flawed analysis that doesn’t compare like with like and excludes key aspects of supply and demand – including the fact that affordable rent is an important part of social housing supply.

“We’ve delivered 517,000 new affordable homes since 2010, including 148,000 for social rent. We’re investing over £12 billion over five years, the largest investment in a decade, to provide up to 180,000 new homes – with half for affordable and social rent.”

Image: A housing estate in Sterling, Scotland. Credit: George Clerk/iStock

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