In 60% of the country, social house building has effectively stopped

Given how awful the levels of affordable house building were in 2013/14 nationally, it’s difficult to imagine they could get worse by looking at them on a local level.

They do.

Not only has the total level of social rented house building fallen to its lowest since the Second World War, but in much of the country last year no new social rented homes were built at all.

In 117 council areas – over a third of the 326 in England – not a single social rented home was built in 2013/14.

In a further 82 there were only between 1 and 19 social rented homes built, meaning that in 199 council areas there were fewer than 20 social rented homes built last year.

Effectively, in more than 60% of the country’s districts there was no meaningful social house building last year.

This is despite new polling for the National Housing Federation finding that 58% of people support new social house building in their area.

This lack of building is not due to an absence of need.

Seven of the council areas where no social rented house building took place last year are in London.

In those boroughs alone over 70,000 households are on the waiting list for a social rented home. The overwhelming majority of them won’t ever get one unless more homes are built.

Even more worrying: in those London boroughs over 8,000 households are homeless and in temporary accommodation. Over 3,700 of these are families with children. Without new social rented homes, it will continue to be difficult to find a suitable long-term home even for people who are homeless.

And while the picture is particularly bleak at a local level with regards to social rented house building, it would be a mistake to believe that everything is fine when it comes to building levels of other types of affordable home.[i]

There are, for example, ten council districts where levels of affordable house building were so low in 2013/14 that they don’t even register on the more general set of local statistics (Live Table 1008, where numbers are rounded to the closest 10).

Again, the lack of building is not driven by a lack of need.

For example, in some of the districts average house prices are almost ten times the average income.

As such, there is a compelling case for affordable home ownership like shared ownership – and yet barely any of these types of home are being built. In the Communities Secretary’s local council area of Brentwood, for example, only 1 shared ownership home was built last year, and that was the only affordable home built in that borough. Need in Oxford is almost as high as in parts of London and yet no affordable homes of any kind were built.

Even in somewhere like Oadby and Wigstone, a district in Leicestershire, where prices are relatively affordable, there are still over 1,300 people on the housing waiting list.

Building more of every type of home – including affordable homes – is the only way that we will sustainably tackle homelessness and help bring the benefits of home ownership to people who’ve been priced out.

Later this month Shelter will publish a report on how we can do this, and increase building of all types of home, including social rented and intermediate homes (like shared ownership).

Until that increase has happened, Shelter’s advisers will be on-hand to help those most in need access this ever-more-scarce resource.

You can donate to Shelter so that we can continue to give people advice and access a home this Christmas by texting SHELTER to 70060.



[i] Under the broad umbrella of ‘affordable homes’ comes a wide variety of different intermediate and social homes, including:

  • Shared ownership homes (part-rent, part-buy homes)
  • Intermediate rent homes (short-term homes charged at up to 80% of market rents)
  • ‘Affordable Rent’ homes (long-term homes charged at up to 80% of market rents)
  • Social rented homes (long-term homes charged at social rents – typically about 50% of market rents)