Politicians must commit to building 90,000 social homes a year, urge campaigners

Political parties must commit to building a new generation of social homes to end the housing emergency, according to a coalition of charities, businesses and campaigners.

An open letter with a range of signatories including Grenfell United, the Health Equals campaign, led by Health Foundation, and Ikea is urging a “mass social housebuilding programme” and emphasising the positive impact social rent homes can have on those who grow up in them.

Housing charities are re-stating their long-called-for commitment to build 90,000 social homes a year.

The letter comes as new survey findings from Shelter suggested that almost three quarters (70%) of social tenants said they could not afford to live in their local area were it not for their access to social housing.

A total of 2,041 social renters in England responded to the research, with 412 of those having moved from a privately rented home in the previous 10 years, the charity said.

The polling, carried out by YouGov for Shelter in April, suggested that more than two thirds (69%) of parents said social housing had given their children a stable home, while 43% of social tenants said it had meant they could live close to their support networks.

The letter stated: “The construction of social rent homes has fallen off a cliff. We built over 200,000 social rent homes in 1954, but last year, we delivered just 9,560. In fact, we are seeing a drastic net loss of social rent homes. In the last decade alone, our social housing stock has shrunk by hundreds of thousands.

“The lack of social housing in this country is driving a housing emergency. Across the country, 1.3 million households sit on social housing waiting lists.

“There are over 145,000 children homeless in temporary accommodation, with nowhere to play or do their schoolwork and whole families living in a single room. Meanwhile, a private renter receives a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice every three minutes.”

Shelter said its analysis of the latest Government rent data showed that social rents are 64% more affordable than private rents, with social tenants in England having to pay on average £828 less per month in rent than private tenants.

The letter, referring to the charity’s recent campaign supported by actor Eddie Marsan and musician Suggs, stated: “We need to build good-quality social homes again. So a new generation can be proud to say: We are made in social housing.

“Together, we are calling on all political parties to listen to the growing consensus across the country and build a new generation of social rent homes to end the housing emergency.”

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “The housing emergency has been wilfully ignored for too long. All the signs point to one solution and it’s the only one that works.

“Now that a General Election has been called we cannot afford to waste any time. All political parties must commit to building genuinely affordable social homes – we need 90,000 a year over 10 years to end the housing emergency for good.”

Meanwhile, a report has estimated that England’s 4.2 million social rented homes contribute at least £77.7 billion a year to the national economy in savings for the NHS, councils, police and government, and in the economic opportunities created for those living in them.

The research, from affordable housing builder The Hyde Group alongside others, was based on an analysis of savings and benefits from more than 220,000 social homes provided by six housing associations across England.

Professor Jim Clifford, honorary professor at Sheffield Hallam University, who was commissioned to carry out the research, said: “Social housing is not just for people struggling to keep their heads above water, coping with health and financial issues.

“It also brings its stability to those facing employment uncertainty and in-work poverty, and for those in regular employment who manage well, but need that stability to keep doing so.

“The figures in the evaluation are up against those in earlier years as the effects of Covid and the cost of living and fuel crises bite many, and social housing tenants are to some degree cushioned from the worst of that.

“Social housing, its stability and support, remain a major contributor of value in our local and national economies, and in the lives of real people.”

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Thanks to our clear plan and bold action we have delivered one million homes this Parliament and almost 700,000 more affordable homes since 2010, a quarter more than the last Labour government. On top of this, we have increased Local Housing Allowance by £800.”

The spokesperson added that the ”choice could not be clearer – stick with the plan under the Conservatives or go back to square one with Labour”.

Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Helen Morgan said: “Nowhere near enough affordable housing is being built in this country because of a Conservative Party that is in the pockets of greedy developers.

“The Liberal Democrats would put community need over developer greed and build 150,000 social homes every year to tackle the housing crisis.”

Labour has been contacted for comment.