Margaret Greenwood MP has criticised the government for failing to address the crisis in the supply of social housing. The Wirral West MP was speaking in a parliamentary debate on the issue this week.
According to the National Housing Federation, in the 1950s, councils were building an average of 147,000 homes a year. The introduction of a Right to Buy policy in 1980 under the Thatcher government reduced the amount of social housing owned by councils and the amount of social housing overall.
Following the Housing Act 1988, many councils transferred ownership of their housing stock to housing associations. While housing associations continued to build more social homes through the 1990s and 2000s, a drastic reduction in government funding since 2010 has seen fewer social and affordable homes built.
By way of example, in 2010-11, nearly 36,000 social rented homes were started. The following year, after funding cuts, that number reduced to just over 3,000.
Between 2012-13 and 2021-22, 165,000 social homes for rent were either sold or demolished without direct replacement. Analysis by Labour shows that this represents an average net loss of more than 16,000 desperately needed, genuinely affordable homes a year, meaning that those who cannot afford to buy their own home – including pensioners and those living in poverty – are often forced to rent privately and live in constant fear of rent hikes or eviction.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this important debate.
“There are simply not enough social homes available to rent. As a result, coupled with the high cost of buying a home, many are living in insecurity and constant fear of rent increases. This impacts on people of all ages, including people who are retired. There is also a generation of young people who are struggling to find a home in which they can have some dignity and raise a family.
“There is also a homelessness crisis. Recent figures by the housing and homelessness charity, Shelter, showed that at least 271,000 people are homeless in England and that, of those, 2,400 are sleeping rough on any given night.
“This is a matter of extreme concern, and the government should be addressing it.
“Successive Conservative governments have not only singularly failed to build the social homes that we need over the past 13 years, but they have removed them on an unprecedented scale.
“Without adequate levels of social housing, the misery of homelessness and insecure and overpriced accommodation will continue to prevail.
“It is also important that existing social housing is maintained to a decent standard.
“Under the Conservatives, there are insufficient welfare rights agencies to support tenants when they need help with issues such as damp, mould and disrepair.
“I know from the casework I receive that there is a desperate need for such support.
“I am happy to provide support to any Wirral West residents who are struggling to get help with maintenance issues, however there should also be much more help out there for people. Wirral West residents can call my office on 0151 792 3416 and ask for support.
“The government should be bringing forward an ambitious programme of new, good quality social homes built on brownfield sites to high energy efficiency standards.”