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The English Housing Survey Report

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The English Housing Survey Report covering the year 2016/2017 was published on 12th July 2018. The report outlines the characteristics and circumstances of social renters in England and how it has changed over the last 20 years. 

The intention may be to look at the social housing rented sector, but it does this by comparing and contrasting the private housing rented sector. Some of the results are perhaps surprising, given that the social sector is its’ focus.

The social sector is now the smallest sector in English housing, with only 17 per cent of the population living in the social sector; the providers of social housing are either housing associations or local authorities. Housing associations are gradually overtaking local authorities; 20 per cent of the population live in private rented properties whilst home ownership maintains the lead at 63 per cent, which has remained fairly static over the last decade. 

It paints quite a positive picture of the private rented sector, stating that whilst 81 per cent of social tenants were happy with the place they lived in; this was beaten by 84 per cent of tenants who were private renting being happy in their homes.

This is a good rating for the private sector, but it could be argued that whilst this says much about the quality of the private sector, the reading from social tenants is surprisingly low.  Social housing will often have the right to buy as an incentive, secure housing and, for most existing tenants, life time tenancies.

The surprise is not that the private sector out-scored the social sector in the English Housing Survey, but that despite the weighting in favour of the social sector, the social sector still had 19 per cent of tenants who were not happy with the property they lived in.

Repairs services were also reported on. Repairs are often a bone of contention with tenants, who are not happy with the standard of repairs and the length of time they take to be done; this was reflected in the fact that 72 per cent of tenants in the private rented sector were happy with the repairs service; private sector landlords have an incentive for undertaking repairs, of course, it is their property, after all! 

What do social tenants feel about their repairs service? Only 66 per cent of social tenants are happy with their repairs service. Surely this is less understandable, given that it is public money which provides the repairs service?

There are some interesting statistics about length of tenancies included – interesting in that the Government and the Labour party have been making moves to increase the length of tenancies, to improve security in the private sector. 57 per cent of social renters have rented for 10 years or more and 27 per cent of private sector tenants have lived in the sector for 10 years or more. 

Looking at average length of tenancies, social tenants have average tenancy of 11.3 years.  The average length of tenancy was 3.9 in the private rented sector, but this is not surprising, given that it is often the chosen sector for those who need a degree of mobility, due to employment or to move nearer family and friends. 

From this English Housing Survey Report, it seems the private rented sector can hold its’ head up high – it offers good accommodation, people will often choose the private sector over social, because of the diversity of properties and locations and they can be proud of where they live. 

The social sector is not the answer for everyone and, given these results, it is not surprising.  

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