The coronavirus pandemic and the social housing problem

The Uk’s housing emergency has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, with the charity Shelter calling the lack of social homes “disastrous”.

Overcrowding, lack of outside space, substandard dwellings, inadequate shared facilities and out of date systems are already known to impact of the health and wellbeing of residents. With people forced to stay in their homes, these issues were amplified during lockdown. Social tenants are therefore disproportionately affected by lockdown measures, which highlights inequalities in housing and repercussions for health. It’s not surprising then that in a poll carried out for Shelter, 25% of private renting adults – equivalent to 2.1 million people – said lockdown made their housing situation harder to cope with.

And many more issues face the housing sector including fire risk, inadequate waste collection regimes and lack of outdoor storage for valued possessions.

According to National Housing Federation (NHF) the waiting list for social housing is 500,000 households more than official figures suggest. And the number of people in need of social housing is only set to rise as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with low-income earners twice as likely to lose their jobs. This will put a huge strain on an already struggling system.

It is clear the need to invest in quality social housing has never been greater.


£11.5bn pledge

In a bid to tackle the housing crisis, last week saw Boris Johnson announce a new 5% deposit scheme for first time buyers to help “fix our broken housing market”.

But what about social housing? Recently, the government also announced £11.5bn programme to build 180,000 new homes on the five-year initiative between 2021 and 2026. Half of the new homes will be made available for ownership, with the rest for affordable and social rent. But where successive UK governments have failed to provide enough affordable homes for those who need them most, whilst definitely welcome, will the admirable pledges from politicians be enough to drive lasting change?

With an estimated 3.8m people in need of social housing and increasing fast, and only 180,000 new homes being built for affordable housing and social rent over 5 years, we should be building 5 times as many as this!