The government needs to build 128,000 more affordable homes each year than it is currently doing to meet demand in England, new analysis by NationalWorld reveals, amid concerns the cost of living crisis is pushing people into homelessness.
Crisis and the National Housing Federation (NHF) estimated in 2018 that 145,000 affordable homes should be provided each year until the early 2030s to reach demand, including 90,000 for social rent – but analysis of government figures show fewer than half this are being delivered each year.
Data published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) shows 57,000 affordable homes have been provided each year on average in England between 2018/19 and 2021/22 – 88,000 short of the Crisis and NHF target. It means 352,000 fewer homes have been built during the last four years than needed to meet demand.
The housing charities’ target would have meant that 1.9 million new homes would have been delivered between 2018/19 and 2030/31. But to make up for the shortfall during the last four years, the government would now have to up the delivery of new properties to an average of 184,200 per year – 128,000 more than the current rate.
The government has no affordable housing target for England but campaigners say it needs to put one in place with charities telling NationalWorld the housing crisis is resulting in families being left to live “cramped in one room” and without their own cleaning or washing facilities.
In December we revealed how 135,000 children in the UK were set to spend Christmas in temporary accommodation, with cash-strapped English councils forced to fork out almost £6 billion on temporary housing for families over the last six years – the majority going into the pockets of private landlords.
The new analysis comes as Rachel Maclean becomes the sixth new housing minister in the past 12 months and the 15th since the Conservatives came to power. The government said it has delivered over 632,600 new affordable homes in this time. NationalWorld has previously looked at how constant churn within key ministerial roles has prevented the government from tackling burning issues facing the country – including the long-standing housing crisis.
What are affordable homes?
The government’s data on new affordable homes covers a wide range of housing types – many of which charities would consider unaffordable – including social rents (lower cost homes provided by a local council or housing associations), intermediate rents (rent that is no more than 80% of local market rents) and shared ownership (where tenants own only a percentage of their property ).
However, there is no agreed definition on what constitutes affordable housing and Crisis says the government’s definition means ‘affordable homes’ are often not affordable to people on low incomes. It warned that people on housing benefits often struggle to access them because benefits in many areas do not cover the bottom third of average rents, as they are purportedly designed to. Housing benefit has also been frozen since 2020
The charity prefers to define affordability in the rental sector in terms of household income, rather than market rates – homes should not take up more than 27.5% of a household’s income, or leave families with a level of income after tax and housing costs that puts them in relative poverty, it says.
Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis told NationalWorld: “The severe lack of affordable housing is shameful and the progress to turn this around is painfully slow. Without enough affordable homes, people are forced into unstable and insecure accommodation and what is supposed to be temporary can turn into months or years, with families cramped in one room and people living without their own cleaning or washing facilities.”
Affordable housing targets were also set by Crisis and the NHF for Scotland and Wales – but NationalWorld’s analysis shows England has more work to do to meet them. According to a Scottish government report, Scotland added an average of 8,770 new affordable homes each year between 2018/19 and 2021/22 – 1,230, or 14%, off the target. In Wales, the number of homes needs to more than double to meet its target of 7,000 homes per year (it is building an average of 3,050), while in England 2.6 times as many homes are needed each year.
Downie added: “The numbers are clear – 145,000 affordable homes a year are needed in England, including 90,000 for social rent, but we are already way behind on providing homes to match these targets. On top of this, people up and down the country are struggling with the surging cost of living, including sky high rents, which are pushing more people to the brink of homelessness.
“The government must commit to providing affordable homes and put a plan in place to achieve this. Without such action, the situation will only grow more desperate for people forced into homelessness and unable to move on with their lives.”
Head of policy at the National Housing Foundation, Will Jeffwitz, added that there is a “chronic shortage of truly affordable homes”.
“Our research reveals that there are currently 4.2 million people in need of a social home in England – a number likely to rise due to the cost of living crisis,” he said.
The regions being left behind
Further analysis by NationalWorld found significant regional variations and a North-South divide in the rate at which affordable homes are being built across England. The North East was found to have the lowest rates of new affordable housing since 2018/19, with 137 new homes added per 10,000 people, whereas the South East had the highest rate at 175 per 10,000. NationalWorld’s analysis does not factor in the wealth or household composition of each region.
‘Delivering thousands of affordable homes’
A spokesperson for the DLUHC said since 2010 the government has delivered over 632,600 new affordable homes.
“We are delivering thousands of affordable homes for both social rent and to buy right across the country through the £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme,” the spokesperson said. “Our manifesto ambition to reach 300,000 homes a year remains and local housing needs remain an important part of the planning system.”
The Scottish Government has a target of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032. Last year it reached 50,000 and said it was progressing towards its target.