THE UK GOVERNMENT is set to spend five times more (£58.2 billion) on subsidising private landlords in England via housing support than on its entire affordable housebuilding programme (£11.5 billion for the Affordable Homes Programme) over the next four years, according to research from the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

The report also finds that local authorities in England have been unable to take advantage of reforms introduced in 2018 to make it easier for them to borrow to build new social homes, with just 7.4 per cent of the social homes needed to meet demand having been built.

The report argues that, since the introduction of right to buy in the 1980s, England’s housing system has become increasingly unbalanced, leading to the housing crisis seen today. According to the report, in the decade preceding the introduction of the right to buy policy in 1980, 40 per cent of new homes built were social housing – over 1 million new social homes in total. But in the 42 years after the introduction of right to buy, only 360,000 new social homes have been built – making up just six per cent of total new homes.

As a result, socially rented homes now make up just 17 per cent of England’s housing, compared to 31 per cent in 1980, according to the English Housing Survey. At the same time, the private rented sector has more than doubled from nine per cent of housing in 1988 to 19 per cent today. The report argues that increasing numbers of people who would be eligible for social housing are stuck privately renting unaffordable, poor quality, energy inefficient and dangerous homes, often riddled with damp and mould.

The report argues that the root of the England’s housing crisis lies in this shift, in which affordable and secure social homes have been replaced by unaffordable, insecure and poor quality private sector accommodation. The report recommends supplementing social housebuilding by enabling local authorities to acquire, upgrade and repurpose private rented housing on a transformative scale to create a new generation of social homes.

Alex Diner, senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said: “Since the 1980s, we’ve swapped secure and affordable social housing for a private rented sector which leaves households paying through the nose for their homes, living in fear of evictions and rent hikes. Far from providing stable foundations on which to build our lives, our housing system has instead become a source of insecurity, hardship, anxiety and poor health for millions.

“Current efforts to fix this are not working, and we are not building enough social homes to meet demand. This government is spending much more subsidising rising private sector rents than it is addressing its root cause: the lack of social homes. Alongside building desperately needed social homes, upgrading and repurposing private rented housing into a new generation of social homes provides a clear path out of the housing crisis.”

* Read: Beyond New Build: Repurposing private rented housing to deliver a new generation of social homes for England here.

* Source: New Economics Foundation