Public rental homes: fresh perspectives

Think tank: Localis

Author(s): Peter Bill; Jackie Sadek

February 20, 2023

This report from UK think tank Localis looks at what percentage of private homes must be provided to produce the number of affordable public rental homes needed.

Just short of 250,000 new council homes were built in 1953. Housing minister Harold MacMillan permitted local authorities to build as many homes as there were applicants on the waiting list. The last year in which the current target of 300,000 homes was exceeded was in 1969, when 307,000 homes were completed: with the help of 136,000 council houses. In the 12 months to March 2021, 194,000 homes were completed, with the private sector contributing 151,000, registered providers accounting for 39,000 and councils completing just 4,000. What’s more, few of the ‘affordable’ homes being created today from new build and refurbishment projects can be afforded by those on the 1.2 million-long council waiting lists. Well-rehearsed financial constrains make it hard for registered providers or councils to increase ‘social rent’ supply. Yet, given the government’s 300,000 target and a recognition that local authorities should have a stronger voice, the situation presents an opportunity for bottom-up initiatives, stimulated by local authorities but executed by the private sector. Public Rental Homes represents a fresh approach which flips the present private sector appraisal methodology. Instead of asking “what percentage of affordable homes can we afford to provide?”, the PRH model asks, “what percentage of private homes must be provided in order to produce the size and type of public rental homes those on our waiting lists can afford?”.