Documents to download

Housing policy is a devolved matter and so this briefing focuses on England. The number of socially rented houses in England has been falling consistently since the 1980s; between 1981 to 2016 social housing stock has decreased by 25%. In 2016 17% of houses were socially rented compared to 30% in 1981. Some commentators have put this decrease down to aspects of government housing policy. For example, right to buy, a policy introduced in 1980, allowed local authority tenants to purchase their council houses at a reduced rate, which has contributed to reducing social housing stock numbers. A commitment to replace a proportion of the properties sold under the scheme was introduced in 2011, although the latest statistics suggest that these obligations are not being met. Over the same period, central government funding for building new homes for social rent was also reduced, replaced in part by funding for construction of homes for affordable rent, with rents up to 80 percent of market rates.

It has been argued that these housing trends have had implications for several housing-related issues. Statistics show that private renters spend a higher proportion of their income on rent than social renters. Although, in general, rents have risen roughly in proportion to income, renters in London, 25 to 34-year olds and those on low incomes are facing increasing housing burdens. Real-term spending on housing benefit has also increased substantially over the past thirty years, with some attributing this to the lack of investment in social housing. In addition, Crisis has argued that insecure housing in the private sector has also led to increased rates of statutory homelessness, and that the lack of available social homes has posed additional challenges for local authorities when trying to house those which it owes a duty of prevention or relief.

In 2017, the Government committed to working with local councils to build more social homes, and its 2018 green paper outlined its strategy for achieving this. However, its proposals have been criticised by housing groups and homeless charities for being unambitious and failing to meet demand for social housing. In addition, Labour denounced the plan saying that it did not include any government investment for new homes.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Long-term plan for housing

    The government’s long-term plan for housing includes a range of policies it says are aimed at regeneration, inner-city densification and housing delivery across England. In December 2023, the government announced the next stage of its long-term plan, including revisions to the ‘National planning policy framework’ (NPPF). This briefing summarises government housing policies within the long-term plan and NPPF revisions, as well as recent criticism of the government’s plan from parliamentarians.

    Long-term plan for housing
  • Fire safety regulations: Reform for furniture and buildings in England

    The government has proposed changes to how fire safety standards for furniture and furnishings are regulated in England. Scientists and the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee have raised concerns that current regulations incentivise the use of flame-retardant chemicals, which have environmental and health impacts. The regulatory framework for fire safety in buildings in England has also been reformed following the Grenfell Tower fire and the Building Safety Act 2022.

    Fire safety regulations: Reform for furniture and buildings in England