There is too much focus on how to build new social housing and not enough on how social housing can improve the lives of tenants, many of whom face enormous challenges.
Labour’s 2019 housing manifesto has three columns of text on social housing. Two and a half of these columns are about building new units, detailing how the party would build a million new homes over 10 years.
What would Labour’s approach be for the 4m households in England that currently rent from the council or a housing association? Decent homes 2 (i.e. investment in repairs and maintenance) and more of a role for tenants in governance. Both laudable initiatives but neither of which will be enough to overcome the substantial challenges that are faced by many social housing tenants.
- On average, private renters are more satisfied with their accommodation than people who rent from the council or housing associations
- Social renters pay a higher percentage of their income in rents than people that own their homes pay for their mortgage
- Social renters are very likely to have on savings
- Social renters are likely to have a lower sense of wellbeing and optimism about the future
The promise of social housing is that it can provide people with safe, secure, affordable housing provided by accountable organisations that have their tenant’s best interests at heart. It’s fair to say that in many cases that promise is not being realised.