Map shows which regions at greatest risk of losing all council housing

Mum of two Martina Shurmer in her damp council flat

Despite having their rent set by local government, those in council housing have not been spared from the market pressures increasing housing costs in the private sector. As more and more publicly-owned homes are sold-off and fewer social lettings taken up, the affordable prices social tenants once enjoyed are disappearing. And in some parts of the country faster than others – check’s map to find out where.

Since emerging from the pandemic, surging demand for housing has seen prices climb to new heights – the average property in England selling for £275,000 last year.

The cost-of-living crisis and energy bill hikes have forced many to shelve their designs for home ownership. This, in turn, has increased pressure on the rental sector. In the 12 months to March 2020, the median rent was £700 a month – by September 2022 it had hit £800.

Simply put, not enough housing is on offer to satisfy demand – especially in the areas people flock to for work, and in London in particular. With a manifesto goal of 300,000 new builds a year in England, Micheal Gove’s department registered just 233,000 last year.

As a result, those in social housing – who rent from their local authority or a housing association – face an increasingly daunting task should they want to step into the private rental market. All the while, the affordable rates they are currently paying are becoming ever less so.

READ MORE: Rent taking up over a third of income in over half of English councils

There were 267,000 new social housing lettings in financial year from April 2021 to March 2022, according to the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). This is 13 percent lower than the 306,000 figure pre-pandemic, indicative of the long-term withering of the sector.

In the past year alone local authorities across England sold just under 11,000 social housing units – a far cry from the heights of the Right to Buy scheme in the late Eighties, potentially due to to a dwindling stock still able to be sold.

While the number of social renters fell from 1.68 to 1.57 million over the past decade, those in the private rental market climbed from 3.96 to 4.71 million.

The collapse in supply, however, has been even more rapid. The number of dwellings owned by councils has halved since 2000 – from 3.01 million to 1.56 million in 2022. As a result, social rents have been pushed upwards.

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Affordable Rents are generally set at 80 percent of the market rate, but Social Rent is typically far lower. The average of the two charged by councils was £195 a month at the turn of the millennium. Last year it came in at just under £400. 

Just like in the private sector, the amount local authorities charge varies significantly across the country. Just like in the private sector, London was head and shoulders above the rest at £485 on average.

The capital was followed by the South East (£424) and the East of England (£415). The cheapest social housing was in Yorkshire and the Humber at just £336 a month.

When comparing the prices charged in the social and private sector, however, London offers the most savings at £965, followed by the South East (£549) and the East (£460).

A recent YouGov poll conducted online between April 3 and 4 found 71 percent of 2019 Conservative voters thought the country needed more social housing.

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