Briefing: Social Housing & England's Housebuilding Recovery

By: Robin White  Published: June 2020


In England we are in the midst of a housing emergency. One characterised by high levels of homelessness, expensive private rents and a severe lack of genuinely affordable social housing. The impacts of this housing emergency have been exacerbated by the current pandemic. With many people forced to shield and isolate in wholly inappropriate living conditions.

The post-pandemic recession also brings severe risk for the English housebuilding industry, which we know from the 2008 experience will look to reduce output in an economic downturn. This means fewer homes built and many jobs lost. In fact, new analysis from Savills – commissioned by Shelter – shows that as many as 244,000 jobs in construction and the construction supply chain could be lost in 2020/21.  

However, there is an answer available to government that will ensure construction jobs are saved, the country continues building homes through a downturn and those in housing need are provided with new and better accommodation. This answer is to invest now in the building of social housing.

The upcoming Great Recovery Bill offers a first chance to commit to this by:

  1. Accelerating the existing £12.2 billion Affordable Homes Programme, to make it a two-year rescue and recovery package.

  2. Spending the bulk of the rescue and recovery package on building new social rented homes with realistic grant rates and be flexible and imaginative about allocating grant.

  3. Using the recovery as a launchpad towards delivering the 90,000 social rented homes a year we need through a long-term programme.


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