Calls for construction of more social homes

Official figures released this week have indicated that the number of homes built specifically for social rent has fallen by close to 80%, despite more than 1 million families still on waiting lists for much-needed homes.

The figures were released by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and show that 6,463 social rent homes were built in England in 2017/18, a reduction of 30,000 based on figures from ten years ago. 

This comes as around 1.25 million families are on the waiting list for homes and two-thirds of these had been waiting for more than one year. The average local authority in England has 3,500 families waiting. The charity Shelter also reports that there are around 230,000 people homeless in England.

The Shadow housing secretary John Healey has condemned the numbers, pointing out that at this rate of construction it would take 170 years to house those families on the waiting list.

The government, however, has shown that properties that were classified as “affordable” had in fact increased by 12% in the last year - however, most of these were built for “affordable rent”, where the rent is capped at 80% of the market rate. Developers are known to make a larger profit on these homes compared to social rent properties. Campaigners point out that the term “affordable” is based on the average income and house prices in the area, preventing many people from affording these properties.

The government announced last month that the cap on borrowing for local authorities for the construction of new homes would be scrapped and this is hoped to lead to an increase in building. However, experts believe most of the homes built are likely to be of the “affordable” type rather than straight social housing.