Over eight million people in England ‘directly hit’ by housing crisis

A first-of-its-kind NHF report reveals “true extent” of the social housing waiting list.


More than eight million people in England – around one in seven – are living in unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable homes, according to a new report by the National Housing Federation (NHF).

In the first of its kind, the State of the Nation report captures exactly how many people are hit by different aspects of the housing crisis, including high house prices and rents, unsuitable or poor-quality homes, and the overall shortage of new homes.

As outlined, more than 3.6 million people are living in overcrowded homes, while 2.5 million people can’t afford their rent or mortgage.

A further 2.5 million adults are stuck living with parents, an ex-partner or friends because they can’t afford to move out.

The NHF research, released today (23rd September), also looks at how the housing crisis is spread across the country.

According to statistics, more people in the North of England struggle to afford their rent, while people in the South are more likely to face overcrowding or living with their parents.

Revealing the “true extent” of the social housing waiting list – which is said to be double that of government projections, the research also looks at what it would take to house those 8.4 million affected.

Almost half (43%) can only afford to live decently if they are in social housing – 3.6m people.

Social housing rents are on average 50% cheaper than from private landlords, contracts are more secure, and many properties are designed specifically for older people with mobility issues.

To meet the housing demand revealed today, the country needs 340,000 new homes every year, including 145,000 social homes.

Now, the National Housing Federation, along with Shelter, Crisis, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and the Chartered Institute of Housing, is calling on the government to build these social homes by investing £12.8bn every year for the next decade.

Outlined in reports, this also must include:

  • 90,000 homes for social rent
  • 30,000 homes at intermediate affordable rent
  • 25,000 shared ownership homes

Illustrating the report’s findings, one case study reveals the extent at which a changing private rental market can have on someone trying to find a suitable living.

Single mum Anna, whose marriage broke down after 12 years was forced to leave the property she owned in south east London.

Working full-time as a social worker, Anna found she could not afford a single property on the market within her budget – as well as this, she found many landlords would not house someone with a child.

After around five months of emailing, phoning and visiting estate agents every day, a friend let her move in to a second home she owned – only charging her rent at the equivalent cost of a one-bed flat.

Anna has said that she doesn’t know where she’ll live if her friends decide to rent the house out properly at market rate if she is asked to leave.

“I was losing all hope. I don’t know what I would have done if a friend hadn’t been able to help me out when I needed it,” she said.

“I was really lucky that the timing worked out and I had a friend that could help – most people wouldn’t have this. I just have no idea what I’ll do if my friend needs to rent her house out at full price in the future.”

On today’s report, Kate Henderson, CEO at the National Housing Federation, said: “Today’s research reveals the full enormity of the housing crisis – clearly, it is the single biggest domestic issue we face.

“The government risks losing votes if it doesn’t take action to tackle the consequences it has for the lives of young and old alike, across the country.

“From Cornwall to Cumbria, millions of people are being pushed into debt and poverty because rent is too expensive, children can’t study because they have no space in their overcrowded homes, and many older or disabled people are struggling to move around their own home because it’s unsuitable.

“This crisis cannot be solved by tweaks around the edges of the housing market. What we need is a return to proper funding for social housing, to the levels last seen under Churchill.

“Investing in housing is a win-win for the government – it would bring down the housing benefit bill, provide everyone with a secure and stable start in life, and kick start an economic boom creating thousands of jobs.”

Further responding to reports, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, Cllr David Renard, said: “The findings of this report reinforces how critical it is for the government to use the Queen’s Speech to give councils the powers and funding they need to get building the social housing the country desperately needs.

“The last time the country built more than 300,000 homes a year was 1977/78, when councils built 44% of them.

“Latest figures show councils built just over 2,500 homes last year – the highest level since 1992 – but need to be able to do so much more.

“By scrapping the housing borrowing cap, the government showed it has heard our argument that councils must be part of the solution to our chronic housing shortage.

“It should now go further and devolve Right To Buy so that councils retain 100% of their receipts to reinvest in building new homes accompanied with the right infrastructure, and can set discounts locally.”

Helen Evans, CEO of Network Homes and Chair of the G15 said: “We welcome this new analysis by the NHF which shows the scale of the housing crisis in terms of the number of people who are in need of a genuinely affordable home in London.

“It demonstrates we need to build many more genuinely affordable homes of all tenures to be able to support people who are experiencing overcrowding, unaffordable housing and homelessness.

“The G15 is already working to help solve the housing crisis, but we’ll need the government to match our funding to build the affordable homes our country needs.”

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