Number of social housing properties in England drops 11% in one year

Record low number of cheaper homes 'shameful', says Labour

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 30 January 2018 19:25
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Number of social housing properties in England drops 11 per cent in one year

The number of homes available for social rent in England has dropped 11 per cent in just 12 months, plunging the amount of cheaper housing to a record low.

Nearly 40,000 fewer social houses were rented in 2016/17 than the year before, in what critics have said is a “shameful” and “shocking” result of the Government’s housing policies.

The biggest drop was in the number of social homes run by private providers, which fell by almost 30,000 to 231,500 last financial year, analysis of official statistics showed.

Meanwhile, there were more than 10,000 fewer houses let for social rent by local authorities.

There has been an overarching downward trend in the number of social houses since figures started to be recorded in their current form in 2007/08. In the nine-year period, the number of homes let for social rent has fallen from 366,820 to 334,602.

Instead of socially rented homes, which are typically available to families at about 50 per cent of the market rate, the Government has prioritised the building of “affordable” homes, which can be rented at up to 80 per cent of market value.

The policy has come under fire for not providing genuinely affordable homes for people on low incomes.

The new figures emerged after it was revealed last week that the number of people sleeping rough in England has more than doubled since 2010. Official Government data showed that on any given night in autumn last year, 4,751 people were recorded sleeping on the streets, a record number.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire last June, which raised questions about the adequacy of social housing provision, the Government has launched a review into the issue. But activists have said authorities should not wait for the results of the inquiry before taking action.

Housing charity Shelter has launched its own commission into the future of social housing following the disaster.

Chief executive of the charity, Polly Neate, said: “Despite Government promises to increase affordable housing, there just aren’t enough social homes available to rent, and it’s clear that those sold off through Right to Buy are not being replaced fast enough.

“With rising numbers of working people unable to afford their rent, more than a million on council waiting lists and rising numbers of homeless families stuck in temporary accommodation, we very obviously need to urgently increase the number of social homes available.”

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP blamed cuts to the housing budget since the Conservatives entered government.

“These shameful statistics show that the number of new low-cost homes being let has fallen to a record low,” he said.

“This is the direct result of deep cuts to affordable housing investment made by Conservative ministers since 2010.

“The next Labour government will build at least 100,000 genuinely affordable homes a year, including the biggest council house building programme in over thirty years.”

Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse, said the new figures demonstrated a “shocking decline” of social housing in the UK.

“The reality is more and more people are unable to afford to put a roof over their heads,” she said.

“This Government continues to talk about ‘affordable housing’ whilst ignoring our diminishing social housing stock. Social housing is vital for those who cannot afford to buy a home.

“We have reached crisis point. Council waiting lists are running into thousands. The Government must act to allow councils to borrow to build.”

The Minister of State for Housing, Dominic Raab, meanwhile, pointed to other figures published in the statistics bulletin.

“The latest social housing data show landlords are taking less time to rent out their properties once they become vacant and for the first time since 2007 the cost of social rent has reduced,” he said.

“We want to do much more. Through planning reform, release of public sector land, targeted investment and our Social Housing Green Paper, will build the homes Britain needs and people can afford.”

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