More than 150,000 homes for social rent lost in just five years

More than 150,000 of the most affordable rented homes have been lost across England in just five years, according to analysis from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

The organisation is predicting that loss will reach 230,000 by 2020 – making it increasingly difficult for people on lower incomes to access a decent home at a price they can afford.

CIH argues that ministers must focus on affordability as well as building more homes to fix the country’s broken housing market. The government should take an urgent look at shifting funding from the private market towards genuinely affordable housing, said chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE.

Funding for social rent, which tends to be around 30-40 per cent cheaper than market rent, was cut by the coalition government in 2010. Instead, funding has been targeted towards homes for ‘affordable rent’, which can be up to 80 per cent of market rents.

More than 150,000 homes for social rent lost in just five years

Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Homes England show that 103,642 local authority homes and 46,972 housing association homes for social rent were lost between 2012 and 2017. Most of the losses were down to homes being converted to ‘affordable rent’ or being sold through the right to buy scheme, while some were demolished.

Based on current trends, CIH is projecting that 230,000 homes for social rent will have been lost between 2012 and 2020 – 158,642 council homes and 70,972 housing association homes.

Chief executive Terrie Alafat said “For many people on lower incomes, the only truly affordable option is social rent. 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.”

Last year Prime Minister Theresa May announced an extra £2 billion investment in affordable housing – including some support for social rent – while the Budget outlined the government’s ambition to deliver 300,000 new homes a year.

Terrie Alafat continued: “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, and that people can afford them.

“The Prime Minister is absolutely right to make housing a priority, and some of the things the government is doing will help.

“But government investment is still heavily skewed towards the private market. 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, so that more money is spent on affordable homes, could make a big difference.”

CIH said the government could also make some simple changes to the right to buy scheme to help councils build more homes to replace those sold.

“Right to buy is undermining efforts to provide genuinely affordable homes for people on lower incomes.

“We think local authorities should be able to keep 100% of the money they receive from sales, rather than having to hand some over to the Treasury, as is currently the case. The government could also give councils more time to use the receipts.”