Value of social housing - Hero image

The value of social housing

Social housing is an investment in people, in strong communities, and in the future of our country

A home is a fundamental human need. It’s about more than just a roof over your head – having a home allows us to put down roots in a community. It’s the stable foundation we all need to build our lives.

But today, across the country, that right is being denied to millions of people whose lives are blighted by homelessness, bad housing conditions, sky-high private rents, insecurity, and the threat of eviction.

Our housing market relies on different types of homes to buy and rent. Social housing has historically been a key part of this, so failing to build these homes has caused problems throughout the system, such as:

  • a reliance on private housebuilding, which can never provide all the homes we need in isolation
  • declining rates of home ownership, as high rents leave most private renters unable to save even £10 a month towards a deposit or anything else
  • a negative impact on the remaining social housing stock, as many providers struggle to maintain and improve homes adequately in the face of shrinking rent revenues
  • strained communities and local labour markets, as more young people and families find themselves priced out of many areas entirely

Social homes are the only permanent solution to the housing emergency. By building a new generation of social homes, millions more people could benefit from stable, genuinely affordable homes that are also of high quality – something that just isn’t available for people on lower incomes in the current market.

Marissa and her two children have lived in their two-bed flat in Harlow for nine years.

‘I’m very lucky to live in social housing. People are having such a hard time in private renting. There’s no security and it’s unsettling having to move all the time.’

‘Where I live isn’t perfect but living here means I can do a job that I love, and my children can do activities that I couldn’t afford otherwise.’

‘There’s also a great sense of community – I know all my neighbours. More people should be able to access homes like this and not have to rely on private renting.’

Social housing works…

For people

Social housing provides a stable home that people can stay in for the long-term. Rents are linked to local incomes, making them more affordable. Social tenancies are also more secure than those you’re likely to find in the private sector: usually you’ll have the right to stay for years and make your house your home.

This foundation creates the kind of settled home we all need to get on in life. It provides stability to enable children to grow and flourish at school, or for adults to take advantage of career opportunities. Having somewhere you can reliably call home provides breathing space to enjoy life.

For communities

The affordability and stability of social housing can be an anchor for local communities and labour markets. Social homes enable workers on low wages to continue living close to the jobs that need their skills, and near to family and care networks, making communities resilient to rising market prices.

Social housing isn’t perfect – there are problems which need to be solved. But despite this, many social renters say the stability of a social home allows them to put down roots.

And with the right to stay in their homes for years, tenants have the chance to get know their neighbours and become a real part of the community, also helping to sustain local amenities like shops, post offices, and pubs.

For the country

Social homes aren’t just good for individuals – they’re good for the whole country. Without a supply of social housing, the government has no choice but to help an increasing number of working people to cover the high cost of private rents through housing benefit.

A new generation of social homes will make sure everyone has access to decent, affordable, secure housing at a sustainable cost to the taxpayer, saving money in the long-term. Social homes are more affordable for working people across the country, meaning less people would need help through benefits to pay their rent – and those that do would need far smaller payments than in the private rented sector.

What do we recommend?

Infographic outlining what Shelter recommends
Infographic outlining what Shelter recommends

3.1 million more social homes

  • a historic renewal of social housing
  • social homes, providing both security for those in need and a step up for young families trying to get on and save for their future

Reforming renting

  • introduce a new regulator to improve standards
  • give social renters a stronger voice both locally and nationally

Applying for social housing

It can be difficult to understand how to apply for social housing.

Find out how to apply for a council house, and how to get a housing association home.

Demand the government build more social housing