Number of social rent homes falls by more than 200,000 since 2012, UK Housing Review reveals

The number of council and housing association homes being let at social rent fell by 210,000 between 2012 and 2020, the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) UK Housing Review has revealed.

The annual report by the CIH found that 280,000 social rent homes have been sold, converted to higher rents or demolished since April 2012, while just 70,000 new social rent homes have been built.

Right to Buy sales, which accounted for 120,000 homes, and conversion to higher affordable rent tenures, which accounted for 116,000 homes, were the two biggest reasons for the loss of social rent homes.

According to the review, the supply of social rented homes is likely to decrease further as a result of the pandemic. Just 10,531 affordable homes of all types were started under grant-funded programmes in the first half of 2020/21, compared with 17,980 for the same period in 2019/20.

While the government has promised to deliver 32,000 social rent homes outside of London in the next five years, this is just 4,000 more in the previous five years and is not enough to replace homes that will be lost through Right to Buy sales, the report warns.

The UK Housing Review 2021 includes a selection of articles addressing various issues within housing policy currently, including the move towards net zero and the upcoming reforms to the planning system.

Gavin Smart, chief executive of the 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 the Right to Buy to help deal with the housing crisis, which the pandemic has only made worse.”

“As always, this year’s UK Housing Review features chapters on a variety of housing-related issues written by leading analysts. It is packed with statistics and analysis about housing, households and welfare benefits across the UK and internationally, making it the prime source of information and analysis for all concerned with housing policy and finance.

“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 past five years. Scotland and Wales have both halted the 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.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 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.”


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