England needs more social housing, not less – figures reveal 165,000 lost in last six years

ENGLAND has lost more than 165,000 social rented homes over the last six years, according to analysis by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

What’s more, by 2020 the organisations predicts that even more homes will be lost, with the tally coming to 199,000 by 2020.

Social housing is generally considered the most affordable rented housing, and the continuing depletion of such homes will make it increasingly harder for people on lower incomes to access homes at a price they can afford, the CIH points out.

Funding to build social rent properties, which tends to be around 30-40% cheaper than market rent, was cut by the Conservative-led coalition government in 2010. Since then, funding has been targeted towards homes for ‘affordable rent’, which, at up to 80% of market rents, can be anything but.

Terrie Alafat CBE
Terrie Alafat CBE, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing

“For many people on lower incomes, the only truly affordable option is social rent,” said Terrie Alafat CBE, the CIH’s chief executive. “It is simply unacceptable that we are losing so many of our most affordable homes at a time when more and more people are in need. We need to increase the number of homes we are building but it’s not just a numbers game – we need to make sure we are building the right homes, in the right places, at the right prices.”

Despite the huge loss of social housing set to continue, the organisation has lowered its projection of future losses, compared to previous years. This is because the Government has recently made several “positive announcements” regarding the tenure.

These include more funding for housing associations, lifting the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap for local authorities, and abandoning plans to force councils to sell their most valuable empty homes.

Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and Homes England show that 117,828 local authority homes and 47,869 housing association homes for social rent were lost between 2012 and 2018. Despite some continued new build for social rent, numbers have continued to fall – because of right to buy sales and properties being converted to ‘affordable rent’ or demolished.

Based on current trends, CIH is projecting that 199,000 homes for social rent will have been lost between 2012 and 2020 – 140,828 council homes and 57,869 housing association homes. Those figures include the loss of an estimated 3,000 homes due to the West Midlands pilot of the extension of right to buy to housing associations.

“We have seen some welcome progress in recent months, including the removal of the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap to help councils build more homes and the new investment partnerships between housing associations and Homes England,” Alafat added.

“But government investment is still heavily skewed towards the private market. Our analysis shows that 79% of the housing budget up to 2020/21 is directed towards private housing, with just 21% going to affordable housing. Rebalancing this budget could make a big difference – it is vital that the government supports councils and housing associations to build more homes for social rent.”

CIH is also calling on the government to suspend the right to buy, which is regarded as the biggest factor in the continued fall in homes for social rent.

“Not only are we failing to build enough homes for social rent – right to buy means we are losing them at a time when millions of people need genuinely affordable housing more than ever,” Alafat said.

“We support the principle of helping tenants move into home ownership if that’s what they want, but it cannot be at the expense of other people in need. The Government should suspend right to buy to stem the loss of social rented homes, remove the barriers stopping councils from replacing homes sold and look at more effective ways to help people access home ownership.”



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