It seems like the terms ‘generation rent’ and ‘housing crisis’ have slowly fallen out of fashion but this does not mean that the issue has gone away. Extreme pressure is being put on the current housing stock, in particular the social housing sector.
The first issue that is facing the social housing network is a lack of houses. That seems like a very obvious statement to make, but the severity of the issue means that it cannot be overplayed. Since 2010, construction of social housing has dropped by 97%. That seems an almost impossible number – 97%. Much of this decrease is down to a lack of funding. In 2010 the government decreased subsidies for building social housing by 60%. This obviously affected social housing providers ability to build new homes, but also their current tenants. To try and continue building homes at the needed rate, they had to increase rents. this meant that social housing providers were no longer able to provide homes at 50% of the private sector rate, instead of having to raise the price to 80%. This means fewer people are even able to afford ‘affordable’ homes.
The next issue is safety. The Grenfell Tower tragedy brought safety in social housing blocks to the forefront of the public imagination once again. But the issue again comes down to money. It is all well and good putting in new protocols etc. to try and help, but if there is no money to put the actions in place then they will make no difference. Something about best-laid plans? The issue is that social housing needs a huge expansion and the current stock needs updating. Unfortunately, it seems like the current government does not have any exciting plans as to how to deal with it.
Finally is the issue of turnover. As soon as someone moves out of social housing, there are hundreds lined up ready to take their place. For those managing these properties, this can mean a lot of administration with not a lot of time to do it in. Systems need to be updated to move with the increasing demand and 21st century way of doing things – backlogs just make the system worse. Furthermore, housing associations do still have enough capital to invest in these systems, as David Ireland said “Healthy balance sheets and surpluses show that they will survive.”