Council lettings in England fall to record low


The number of lettings by councils in England has fallen to the lowest figure since records began, official figures show.

Just over 116,000 homes were let by councils during the 2014/15 financial year, which was 7% lower than the previous 12 months and 20% lower than in 2007, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

There was also a 37% drop in council lettings of supported housing, aimed at those requiring specific support, such as the elderly or disabled.

One of the reasons behind this drop has been the Right to Buy scheme, which has seen more than 52,000 council houses in England sold to tenants between 2007 and 2014.

Some 7,790 new council houses were built during the same period.

And the impact of dwindling stock is clear to see: the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics shows that all but three councils in England have a shortfall in social housing, with more than 1.37 million households on the waiting list.

Responding to the decline in council properties available to rent, the DCLG pointed to the "devastating" impact of the financial crash on housebuilding and claimed the Government was now increasing the number of new homes built each year.

"The 2008 economic crash devastated the housebuilding industry, leading to the lowest levels of 'starts' for any peacetime year since the 1920s," it said.

"We have got Britain building again, with more council housing being delivered since 2010 than in the previous 13 years."

Whatever the reason, it has meant housing associations have stepped in to make up at least part of the shortfall.

"In the last seven years, the number of properties let by such associations has risen by more than a fifth (21%), building 25 times more homes than councils during that period," the DCLG continued.

As a result, the proportion of total lettings by councils compared with those by housing associations has widened from 40% councils/60% housing associations in 2007/08 to 30% councils/70% housing associations in the latest figures.

With households becoming increasingly reliant on housing associations, the recent Government plans to encourage associations to sell homes to tenants through the Right to Buy scheme could further diminish the number of homes available to let.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Conservative conference, David Cameron said his Government was focused on moving people from "generation rent" to "generation buy".