Our analysis has revealed that England lost almost 35,000 social homes in a year. Chartered Institute of Housing policy adviser John Perry examines the reasons behind the decline and looks ahead to the future.
CIH’s assessment of the decline in numbers of social lettings has caught the attention of the Financial Times. Although we still only have figures up to March 2013, in that year there was a net loss of nearly 35,000 social-rented homes in England. As the FT says, this is almost certainly the first time in a decade that we’ve actually seen a downturn in numbers of social lettings.
How has this come about? Output of new homes was over 32,000 in that year, but of course even in 2012/13 many of these were built to be let at higher Affordable Rents. Right to buy and other losses of council-owned stock amounted to over 7,000 units, and a significant number of housing association properties that fell vacant were converted to Affordable Rents to boost associations’ incomes.
We won’t get the data for the year up to March 2014 until later this month (for associations) and December (for councils). But we already know that a bigger proportion of new build will have been at affordable rents last year, there will have been more conversions of existing stock and right to buy sales have increased to around 11,000 as higher discounts have had their effect.
None of this is surprising. The new Affordable Homes Programme that starts next April virtually rules out the building of new social rented homes. The programme that ends next year was based on the assumption that approaching 100,000 existing homes would be let at higher rents over the three years of its life. And of course right to buy continues to be promoted. Although many councils plan to continue building social rented homes, numbers are relatively small and most will have to be built without help from the Homes and Communities Agency.
All of these trends are closely followed in the UK Housing Review. The last edition showed that, on average, the affordable rents set for new or converted units are 55% higher than social rents, with all that that implies for low-income families and for housing benefit costs.
The next edition of the review, due out early in 2015, will compile a new assessment of the loss of social rented stock based on the latest returns, as well as presenting the latest data on affordable rent levels. Unfortunately, things can only get worse. As CIH chief executive Grainia Long said at Housing 2014 last month, if the government wants to change this particular housing story, it must return to building new homes at social rents. She added: “Affordable rent has a role to play but it doesn’t work for everyone in every location and we shouldn’t pretend it does. The disastrous reduction in numbers of new social housing start represents bad policy – we are storing up trouble for the future and we must reverse this trend.”
Original post: Chartered Institute of Housing