‘There is a people’s case for the reform of social housing – more and better’ says Michael Gove at Shelter conference

Posted 21 Apr 2022

Charity warns 40% of private renters are being held back in life by their housing

Minister for Levelling Up Michael Gove announced that he would ‘tilt’ government funding to build more homes for social rent, as Shelter reveals more than 4.4 million private renters in England (40%) are being held back in life by their housing situation.

The charity’s polling carried out by YouGov found more than half of private renters (52%) - equivalent to 5.8 million people - cannot save for the future because of their housing situation. Meanwhile, government figures show there are over a million households on the waiting list for a secure social home in England, the only genuinely affordable type of housing with rents pegged to local incomes.

Shelter hosted its Westminster event ahead of next month’s Queen’s Speech with former Prime Minister Theresa May and voices from across business, politics, faith and housing. The conference showcased the role of social housing in driving social mobility and levelling up the country. Panellists included social housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa, journalist and author Liam Halligan, and the Bishop of Barking Lynne Cullens.

In his first major speech on housing the Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, said: “We’ve reached a situation for a variety of reasons where ... the availability of social housing is simply inadequate for any notion of social justice or economic efficiency.”

“The quality of the private rented sector, the circumstances in which people find themselves, the inadequacy of so many of those homes, the fragility and vulnerability that so many people find in their daily lives ... is insupportable and indefensible ... that is a function of broader supply questions, but it is also a critical function of our failure to ensure that there are homes that are genuinely affordable for rent, our failure to ensure that there are more social homes.

“If we want to have functioning communities, if we want to have our cities and towns having places where keyworkers and individuals who keep our public services going can ensure that they have a decent roof over their heads and raise a family in stability and security, then we need more social homes.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May added: “One of the challenges that I set myself when I spoke from the steps of Downing Street at the beginning of my premiership, was to continue the vital work of making this a country where each and every person has a safe and secure home to call their own. Because our homes are our foundation. Ask almost any question about social fairness or the economy and the answer so often comes back to housing.

“High housing costs are the at the heart of failing social mobility. Fundamentally it is a conservative ethos that whether you own your own home or rent in the social sector residents deserve security, dignity and the opportunity to build a better life. We know our housing system is broken but the housing crisis in this country began not because of a blip lasting a year or because of a parliament but because not enough homes were built over many decades.”

She continued, “For too long, my party has been seen in many peoples’ eyes as the party only of homeownership. Indeed, dare I say it, our policies have too often made it seem that way. But we are the party of decent homes for all, be they people who want to rent their home or to own their own home. Moreover, supporting those struggling to find a home to rent is in no way contrary to boosting homeownership.”

“The Queen’s Speech does give an opportunity to bring forward the measure that require primary legislation including those reforming regulation of the private rental and social tenants that will tip the scale in favour of fairness.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “A long line of governments have focused on homeownership schemes that are only for the better off, rather than what most local families need – a secure home they can afford.

“Unstable private renting is a lifetime prospect for millions of people, who are stuck paying private rents that leave them with no breathing room or opportunity to save for their future. Families want to put down roots and be an active part of their community, but their housing is holding them back.

“Good social housing is as vital as education or healthcare, but it has been deprioritised for decades. If we try to level up without social housing, we will only push people out.”

When asked about government funding for new homes, the general public put social housing top of their list over other kinds of homes like Shared Ownership and Affordable Rent. Currently genuinely affordable social housing receives the least government funding.


Notes to editors:

About the research

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

Figures for private renters are from a YouGov survey for Shelter of 1,029 Private Renters in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st – 11th April 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all private renting adults in England (aged 18+). Population figured have been calculated using English Housing Survey data.

Figures for the general public are from a YouGov survey for Shelter of 5,408 GB adults (aged 18+). Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th - 12th April 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Thinking about government funding for new homes, and all the costs associated with providing this, which, if any, of the following do you think they should prioritise?% GB adults
Increasing the supply of homes for first time buyers (i.e. shared-ownership, Help to Buy schemes, etc.)27
Increasing the supply of social housing (i.e. houses with rents costing on average 50%-60% of local private rents)32
Increasing the supply of Affordable Rent housing (i.e. houses with rents costing on average 80% of local private rents)15
Don't know18
None of the above8

About Shelter: We exist to defend the right to a safe home and fight the devastating impact the housing emergency has on people and society. We believe that home is everything. Learn more at www.shelter.org.uk.