Building for our future: A vision for social housing

The final report of our commission on the future of social housing

Our commission came together after the Grenfell Tower fire to set out how to build a better future for social housing.

We can see the impact of the housing crisis everywhere, from the increase in both young families and older people trapped in unaffordable privately rented homes, to the increasing homelessness that scars our society.

Unless we act now, we face a future in which a generation of young families will be trapped renting privately for their whole lives, where more and more people will grow old in private rentals, where billions more in welfare costs will be paid to private landlords – and hundreds of thousands more people will be forced into homelessness.

Our commission recommends a historic renewal of social housing, with a 20-year programme to deliver 3.1 million more social homes. This will allow the benefits of social housing to be offered much more widely – providing both security for those in need and a step up for young families trying to get on and save for their future.

And we are calling for a stronger voice for tenants, and a new regulator working across social and private renting to protect residents and enforce standards.

Join us in putting social housing at the heart of the solution to the housing crisis.

I don’t know how I’m ever going to be better off. I’d love to live in social housing, but I don’t stand a chance.

Kirsty, a private renter

I really feel that if I’d been in stable social housing for the last 10 years, I’d be in a position to buy my own home now. But it didn’t work out like that. Instead, all my money has gone on rent, moving costs, and fees.

Lucie, a private renter

History of Social Housing

What do we recommend?

Section 01

The Big Conversation

31,000 people took part in our Big Conversation

20 organisations submitted evidence, from the Local Government Association to mental health charity Mind

13 public housing debates were held across the country

16 independent commissioners came together from across the political spectrum, and with a diverse range of backgrounds

If we can’t be bothered to give a helping hand to those who need it most, then where do we stand as a people – and a community?

Ed Daffarn, commissioner and Grenfell resident

Very few people in positions of power understand what this experience is like. I doubt they’ve ever had to live in poor housing or know what it is like to feel invisible, like no one cares.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, commissioner

Section 02

The housing crisis

Today we are feeling the effects of 40 years of failure in housing policy. This crisis has seen a catastrophic decline in social housing, leaving millions in insecure and unaffordable rented homes – with home ownership an impossible dream, and increasing numbers of people tipped into homelessness.

From the Second World War up to 1980, we were building an average of around 126,000 social homes every year. Last year, there were only 7,528 new social homes.

The private rented sector is bursting at the seams – with many renters trapped in unaffordable, insecure homes.

If we continue as we are, only half of today’s young people are likely to ever own their own home – and a generation of younger people and many who are retired will spend their lives struggling with insecure, expensive renting. Over the next 20 years, hundreds of thousands more people will be forced into homelessness by insecure tenancies and sky-high housing costs. But if we act now, we can change this.

Housebuilding In England 1923 – 2018

Section 03

Reforming renting

Social renters are more protected from eviction, but they face stigma and indifference – and too often, their complaints go nowhere. Too many private renters are stuck in insecure, unaffordable tenancies; too frightened to complain about poor conditions or rent increases for fear of eviction.

We need:

  • a new regulator for all renters, to proactively inspect and enforce high standards

  • the removal of barriers for social renters seeking a solution to their problems

  • permanent tenancies for private renters

  • a new independent tenants’ organisation to represent the views of social renters to government

Our flat is in a terrible condition – lots of damp and it’s freezing in winter because there’s no insulation. In some ways, it’s probably a good thing for us to leave, but I know we won’t be able to afford anywhere else nearby.

Lola, private renter

My rent is over half my monthly income, so that’s where most of my money goes. It’s hard to afford other things we need. I am cutting back and doing the best I can, but there are times we can’t live on the money we’ve got.

Nadine, private renter

Section 04

Building more social housing

Historic data plus our 20-year vision

New homes per year
Real house prices


Party in government

A closer look by decade

We need to deliver 3.1 million more social homes over 20 years. This will allow the benefits of social housing to be offered much more widely, providing both security for those in need and a step up for young families trying to get on and save for their future.

This will provide hope for those in greatest difficulty – with just over 1.27m homes for those who are homeless, in the worst conditions and in ill health, over 691,000 for older renters, and 1.17m for people trapped in unaffordable, insecure private renting.

This 20-year programme will provide a return on investment in 39 years, with a cost of £10.7bn a year on average – reduced to £3.8bn when savings in benefits and increased taxes are considered. It’s worth the money, compared with the £21bn spent on housing benefit annually and our £62bn budget for capital expenditure.

We’re also calling for land reform to reduce the cost of land for social housing, and steps to ensure new social housing is delivered as part of mixed communities.

The time for the government to act is now. With the nation going through a cost of living crisis, a safe and secure place to call home is vital.

We believe this vision is the only way government can meet its 300,000 target for new homes each year. It will provide an affordable, stable home for 3.1 million households. It will command huge public support. It will, more than any other change, properly address the housing crisis and give people hope for the future.

It’s not just the impact of the damp and mould that gets to me, but the way I’ve been treated: like dirt on someone’s shoe. I’ve hit rock bottom many times. There's no help for people in social housing suffering from disrepair.

Venetia, social renter

Reported repair issues need to be taken seriously. I gave up trying to get damaged plaster repaired after a major roof leak as I couldn’t bear the accusations of being untruthful, and downright incompetence.

Social renter

Demand the government builds more social housing

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Our commissioners

  • Jo Miller

    Jo Miller

    Chief Executive Officer, Doncaster Council

  • Lord Jim O’Neill

    Lord Jim O’Neill

    Crossbencher, House of Lords

  • George Clarke

    George Clarke

    Architect and television presenter

  • Dr Faiza Shaheen

    Dr Faiza Shaheen

    Director, Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS)

  • Edward Daffarn

    Edward Daffarn

    Grenfell United and co-author of Grenfell Action Group blog

  • Gavin Kelly

    Gavin Kelly

    Chief Executive, Resolution Trust, and chair, Living Wage Commission

  • Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

    Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

    Former co-chair of the Conservative Party and author of The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain

  • Miatta Fahnbulleh

    Miatta Fahnbulleh

    Chief Executive, New Economics Foundation (NEF)

  • Rt. Hon Ed Miliband

    Rt. Hon Ed Miliband

    MP, Doncaster North

  • Samia Badani

    Samia Badani

    Co-Chair of the Notting Dale Residents Advisory Board

  • Rob Gershon

    Rob Gershon

    Social housing tenant, activist, and Housing Quality Network’s (HQN) Residents’ Network Lead Associate

  • Reverend Dr Mike Long

    Reverend Dr Mike Long

    Commission chair and Minister of the Notting Hill Methodist Church

  • Ryan Shorthouse

    Ryan Shorthouse

    Director, Bright Blue

  • Raji Hunjan

    Raji Hunjan

    Chief Executive, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

  • David Tovey

    David Tovey

    Artist, educator and activist

  • Baroness Doreen Lawrence

    Baroness Doreen Lawrence

    Founder, Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (SLCT)