The Chartered Institute of Housing says 79 per cent of the Government’s homes budget up to 2020/21 will go towards private housing, while only 21 per cent will be spent on affordable homes.
Almost a quarter of a million social homes in England for residents on low incomes will have been lost under the Conservatives by 2020, new figures have revealed.
More than 150,000 of the most affordable homes have gone since 2012, and a further 80,000 will have disappeared by 2020, analysis showed – taking the total to 230,000 in just eight years.
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), which conducted the analysis of official data, said the loss was a result of government policies such as Right to Buy and the decision to stop funding new social housing in order to focus on more expensive “affordable housing”.
The finding raises fresh questions about the Government’s social housing rethink in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, and highlights how tens of thousands of the most affordable homes have been sold off at a time when house prices and private rents have rocketed.
CIH urged ministers to urgently change their approach and prioritise the funding of genuinely affordable homes over other types of housing.
Since 2010, the Government has stopped all central funding for new social housing and instead focused on boosting the building of new “affordable” homes, which cost up to 80 per cent of market value and are 20-30 per cent more expensive than social homes.
Other measures, such as the Help to Buy scheme, are geared towards helping more buyers access full-price properties, but none are designed to help create more social housing.
The CIH said 79 per cent of the housing budget up to 2020/21 will go towards private housing, while only 21 per cent will be spent on affordable housing. The organisation said the budget should be “rebalanced” to prioritise lower-cost homes.
Labour said the new figures were “indefensible” for the Government and called for Right to Buy to be suspended until more of the homes sold have been replaced.
The CIH study found that, since 2012, 103,642 council homes and 46,972 housing association properties at social rent have been lost, mainly because they were converted to more expensive “affordable rent” properties or sold off under Right to Buy.
If the trend continues, a total of 230,000 social homes are likely to been lost between 2012 and 2020: 158,642 council homes and 70,972 housing association properties.
The drastic loss of social housing is explained largely by the Right to Buy scheme, under which hundreds of thousands of social homes have been sold off since its introduction in 1980.
In recent years, swingeing budgets cuts have stopped local councils building new homes, meaning just one new property is now being built for every five sold under Right to Buy.
Just 1,102 new social homes were completed across England last year – down from 36,700 in 2010.
Despite widespread warnings about the loss of low-cost housing, policies introduced by the Conservatives in 2016 as part of the Housing and Planning Act will accelerate the loss of social homes.
The law introduced measures to extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing association properties, despite growing calls for a rethink of the policy, and will also force local councils to sell off their most valuable council homes.
Commenting on the latest figures, John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “This lays bare the haemorrhage of low-cost housing under the Conservatives. In the midst of a housing crisis, it is indefensible that communities are losing much-needed affordable homes.
“In many cases the taxpayer is paying three times over: first to build the homes, second for a Right to Buy discount of up to £100,000 per property and third for the higher housing benefit bill as more people end up in more expensive private rented homes.
“Labour will suspend Right to Buy, only allowing properties to be sold if they are replaced like-for-like, and build at least 100,000 genuinely affordable homes a year – including the biggest council house-building programme in 30 years.”
The new figures are likely to place fresh pressure on ministers to overhaul their current housing policies.
After the Grenfell Tower fire raised questions about a lack of investment in low-cost homes, the Conservatives promised a “wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review” of government policy on social housing.
Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, admitted in October that the Tories were “failing” on housing and promised a “complete rethink of our approach to social housing”.
In the same month, Theresa May announced an extra £2bn investment in affordable housing, including some for social rent, but analysis showed this would fund just 5,000 homes per year – a tiny fraction of those that have been lost.
Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “For many people on lower incomes, the only truly affordable option is social rent. It is simply unacceptable that we are losing so many of our most affordable homes at a time when more and more people are in need.
“We need to increase the number of homes we are building, but it’s not just a numbers game – we need to make sure we are building the right homes, in the right places, and that people can afford them.
“The Prime Minister is absolutely right to make housing a priority, and some of the things the Government is doing will help. But government investment is still heavily skewed towards the private market.”
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CIH said the Government should immediately reform the Right to Buy scheme to allow councils to keep all the proceeds they generate from homes that are sold. Currently a significant chunk of the money must be given to the Treasury.
Mr Alafat said: “Right to Buy is undermining efforts to provide genuinely affordable homes for people on lower incomes.”
The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government was contacted for comment.
Benjamin Kentish Political Correspondent
Wednesday 31 January 2018 00:05 GMT, The Independent