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07/02/2019

More than 150,000 social rent homes lost in six years

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing / iStock-807295382

Over the past six years more than 165,000 homes for social rent have been lost in England. This breaks down to 140,828 council homes and 57,869 housing association homes.

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) predicts that this will rise to 199,000 by 2020, and says this would make it more difficult for people on lower incomes to access a decent home that they can afford.

The coalition government cut funding for social rent in 2010. Funding has since been targeted towards homes for “affordable rent”, which can be up to 80 per cent of market rent, whereas social rent tends to be 30-40 per cent cheaper than market rent.

However, the institute says the prediction of the increased loss of affordable housing is lower than in previous years, owing to a number of measures the government has introduced, including more funding for housing associations and lifting the Housing Revenue Account.

Current trends suggest 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. This takes into account the loss of about 3,000 homes because of the West Midlands pilot of the extension of right to buy to housing associations.

Terrie Alafat CBE, chief executive at the CIH, said: “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.”

Despite the welcome progress, “government investment is still heavily skewed towards the private market”, she said.

“Our analysis shows that 79 per cent of the housing budget up to 2020/21 is directed towards private housing, with just 21 per cent 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.”

The institute also called on the government to suspend the Right to Buy.

“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,” Alafat added.

Martin Tett, housing spokesman at the Local Government Association (LGA), said the figures show that that national housing shortage remains one of “the most pressing issues we face”.

“By recently lifting the cap on councils being able to borrow to invest in new and existing housing, the government showed it had heard our argument that councils must be part of the solution to our chronic housing shortage and able to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes. Councils now need to be able to keep 100 per cent of Right to Buy receipts and set discounts locally to ensure they can replace any homes sold.

“A genuine renaissance in council housebuilding is the only way to boost housing supply, help families struggling to meet housing costs, provide homes to rent, reduce homelessness and tackle the housing waiting lists many councils have.”

Image credit | iStock

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