Improving social housing
This content applies to England only.
In our view social housing is key to solving the housing crisis, because it provides a vital form of affordable housing.
There is not enough social housing in England to meet current housing need. Shelter campaigns for improvements to, and for an overall increase in the supply of social housing in England.
What is social housing?
The problems surrounding social housing
With a shortage of homes to go round, the waiting lists for social housing are at an all-time high. There are nearly 1.8 million households in England on local authority housing registers.  Some families in desperate housing conditions are now forced to wait years for a home. A major reason for the social housing sector shrinking in the past 30 years, is that hundreds of thousands of social tenants bought their homes during this time after they were given the Right to Buy (council housing tenants) or the Right to Acquire (housing association tenants). This trend, combined with low levels of social house building, has drastically reduced the availability of social housing in England.
As the shortage of social housing in England has worsened, those homes that do become available now, tend to be allocated to people with health problems or complex social, economic needs, often concentrating them in the same area. This creates groups who feel isolated from the community at large, increasing levels of social exclusion and the risk of antisocial behaviour. Research shows a link between deprived neighbourhoods and reduced life chances, meaning that children who grow up in such areas can lack the resources, reasons, skills and confidence to move on. 
Shelter believes that social rented housing has a vital role to play in providing decent, secure and affordable housing that enables people to find work, settle and establish roots. It is imperative that the current supply of social housing is improved to make it fit for purpose.
To resolve the current situation, Shelter calls on the Government to:
Build more social homes: Following years of campaigning by Shelter and other organisations, the Government committed itself to building more social rented homes. Shelter is now campaigning to ensure these promises translate into new, decent and appropriate social housing actually being built.
Safeguard and improve the existing social housing stock: As well as making a commitment to build more social housing, the Government must also review its policy of selling off social housing to current tenants. A sufficient quantity of social housing stock must be preserved so that those needing to live in social housing can do so. The Government must also continue to invest to improve the quality of existing social housing stock.
Plan better communities: We don't want to reproduce the housing estates built in the 1960s and 70s. Social housing should sit side by side with private housing for sale, as part of truly mixed communities. Tenants with acute social, health, and economic needs should not all be concentrated in the same area. It is not acceptable in the twenty-first century for children's life chances to be determined by the housing into which they are born.
Safeguard secure tenancies: Recently there has been some debate about changing the law on social housing so that social tenancies are only for a fixed period of time and conditional on activity to seek employment. Shelter strongly opposes such a move, because it would undermine the stability of communities. We believe there are better ways to increase social mobility in the social housing sector and tackle unemployment, that don't exacerbate the problem of homelessness.
Improve housing advice and support: Shelter believes that housing advice and support for people who are eligible for, or already living in social housing needs to be improved to ensure that those in housing need can truly benefit from the services on offer.
 Rents, Lettings and Tenancies, Live Tables, Table 600, www.communities.gov.uk
 The Future of Social Housing edited by Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Mark Stephens, Shelter, 2008, Chapter 5, Social Housing and Spatial Segregation
Social rented housing is housing that is owned and managed by Local Authorities or Registered Social Landlords, as opposed to being privately owned. Social rented housing is let out and managed to fulfil certain social objectives such as providing affordable housing, as opposed to being run on a purely commercial basis, as is the case with most private lets.
The question of who gets, and who doesn't get, social housing is a hotly debated topic. Here we provide some up-to-date facts to explore some of the key issues.
The UK's housing problems cannot be solved simply by changing the way social housing is managed. Ultimately, we need to build more homes to address the current housing shortage and, above all, ensure that there is enough affordable housing to meet current need.