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Housing Association Magazine’s Joe Bradbury looks at what social housing means for society

We currently have a nationwide housing emergency. Millions of people are now cut off and trying to find a safe place to live because successive administrations have failed to deliver the high-quality, stable social housing our country needs.So, what is the true value of social housing for society? Housing Association Magazine’s Joe Bradbury discusses.

Government has no choice but to step in to ensure that those with low incomes are taken care of when the private sector is unable to offer the necessary amount of affordable housing for everyone who needs it. Social housing is born out of this.

Social housing's guiding principle is that it’s cheaper than renting a private home and usually offers a longer-term, more secure lease, granting tenants peace of mind.

Social housing has provided millions of individuals in this country with the quality of life and sense of dignity that unstable and expensive private renting has been unable to provide for years. The severely diminished supply of social housing in England is still declining to this day.

Alarmingly, around 17,000 more social houses were lost last year than were built. It’s easy to see why more and more individuals are forced to try making ends meet in unsafe and frequently unaffordable privately rented homes when these factors are combined with growing home prices.

Too many working families are still reliant on housing assistance (local housing allowance) to cover exorbitant rents. What happened to the once-viable solution, low-cost social housing?

If Social Housing can do this for society, then it can most definitely be considered invaluable

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital Editor of Housing Association magazine

The issue of stigmatisation

Sadly, social housing still carries some stigma for a lot of individuals. Some homeowners are embarrassed to mention that their home is owned by a housing association or local authority because they feel marginalised and ignored.

And on the outside, a sizable portion of society—including far too many politicians—continue to belittle social housing and, consequently, the residents who call it home.

Social housing should never be viewed as something that must only be adequate, nor should its residents be content to accept their safety net without demanding more. Without it we’d be lost.

Britain needs social housing… now more than ever

The nation stands little chance of escaping the grip of the housing crisis without more social housing. More and more individuals, especially families and older people, are finding themselves trapped in costly, overcrowded, unsafe housing.

Different kinds of houses are used in our housing system for both buying and renting. Since social housing has traditionally played a significant role in this, the system has been hampered by the failure to construct these types of homes.

These problems include dwindling home ownership rates, a reliance on private home construction, a detrimental effect on the remaining stock of social housing and pressured communities and labour markets.

Simply put, not enough homes have been constructed to meet the demands of the nation.

Why social housing?

It's inexpensive. Social landlords are not permitted to raise rent over the amounts specified by the Government. This implies that social housing is shielded from so-called "gentrification," the process by which key workers and first-time homebuyers are priced out of a community due to the high cost of housing there.

It's of a high standard. All social housing must fulfil the Housing Quality Standard. According to the Government, every home must be in good repair, secure, warm, and energy-efficient. Homes should, if possible, be able to accommodate the demands of the family residing there.

It’s for everyone. Over 1 million households are waiting for social homes. Last year, 29,000 social homes were sold or demolished, and less than 7,000 were built. In England, there are now 1.4 million fewer households in social housing than there were in 1980.

It offers stability. People who live in social housing typically have more secure forms of tenancy, meaning they will have a long-term place to live as long as they follow their tenancy agreement—often a tenancy for life that might be passed down to their children or another successor.

Contrarily, leases for privately rented homes are typically only for six or twelve months, and the landlord is free to remove tenants without providing a reason (a practise known as a "no fault eviction").

For this reason, a lot of people choose to have the stability and comfort of knowing they will always have a place to call home. Social housing provides this for people.

What is society, if not a collection of people? If it can do this them, especially in uncertain times such as these, then it can most definitely be considered invaluable.

Joe Bradbury is Digital Editor of Housing Association magazine