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Housing crisis in the UK

Everyone needs access to secure, decent housing. In the UK the supply of housing has not been keeping up with demand. Getting access to housing of any type is becoming increasingly difficult for low income households.

We collect evidence on the impact of Government housing policy on homelessness and work with MPs and peers to raise these issues in parliament. We work to highlight the need for more homes for homeless people whether in the social or private sector. 

What needs to change

In England we are calling on the Government to allocate an increased share of the funding for new housing provision specifically to the provision of more homes affordable to those on the lowest incomes, including those in low paid work. Read more about housing supply in England

In Scotland we are calling on the Government to ensure that homeless people have access to secure, decent, affordable rented housing. Read more about housing supply in Scotland

In Wales we are calling on the Government to continue to grow its investment in social rented housing to ensure that new homes built are affordable to those on the lowest incomes. Read more about housing supply in Wales

The housing crisis in the UK

Social housing provided by councils and housing associations for people in housing need is becoming increasingly scarce. The number of social rented homes in England fell by 120,000 between 2012 and 2016, taking the total number of social rented homes below 4 million. Another 120,000 social rented homes are likely to be lost from the social housing stock between 2016 and 2020. 

The reason for this fall is that not enough homes are being built to replace those being taken out of the social housing stock.  This happens when homes are sold through Right to Buy or are moved into a higher rent bracket known as “affordable rent”. The Government encourages social housing providers to put a proportion of homes into the higher rent bracket to raise money for building new “affordable rent” homes.

Read more about our work on housing affordability.

Response to the Public Accounts Committee “Housing – State of the Nation” Inquiry (Word) - February 2017


In 2015/16 only 23,100 new social homes were built in England. 6550 new social rented homes were built by councils and housing associations. A further 16,550 were built for affordable rent. 

This compares with the construction of nearly 39,000 new social homes for rent in 2010/11. This was the last year when the Government funded the construction of social rented homes. (see Affordable Housing Supply 2015-16 (

The Government has recently announced an additional £2 billion to fund delivery of up to 25,000 social rent homes over five years. This is welcome, however it will not make up for the decrease in provision of additional social rented homes since 2010/11. 

In England single homeless people are unlikely to have a priority for help from councils under the homelessness legislation. As the supply of social rented homes has decreased, single people have had less access to social housing. This means single homeless people often have no choice but to look for housing in the private rented sector. Read more about private renting.

The Government has chosen to spend more of the funding available for housing on low cost home ownership and “affordable” rented housing. We believe that a greater share of the available funding should be spent on housing for those on the lowest incomes. 

See more about our work on housing affordability. 


In Scotland there is not the same distinction between the rights of single people and homeless families. Single people in Scotland should be able to get help to find permanent accommodation through their local council.

The Scottish Government is taking measures to address housing supply. For example they abolished the right to buy social homes in 2016 and they have set a target to deliver 35,000 additional social rented homes between 2016/17 and 2020/21.

This is a good start, but we believe that greater action is needed to make sure homeless people have access to secure, decent and affordable rented housing.  


The Welsh Government has taken some measures to address housing supply. £1.5 billion has been allocated to deliver 20,000 new affordable homes between 2016 and 2021. Sixty five per cent of these homes will be for social rent, equivalent to 2,600 homes a year. 

The Government has introduced legislation to abolish the right to buy to reverse the decline in the number of homes available for social rent. 

The Welsh Government has also commissioned an independent review to examine the changes needed to increase affordable housing supply in Wales, with a report due in April 2019. 

We believe that further investment in social rented housing is needed to make sure homeless people have access to genuinely affordable rented housing.

Read more about research into housing models and services in the knowledge hub.