Is social housing at breaking point? How to tackle the social housing crisis in the UK

By Julie Thompson, Head of Tenant Liaison, Assisted Living Project

The housing market is facing a huge upheaval with inflation rising and a cost of living crisis causing further issues, and the UK is facing a similar, if not more severe, problem when it comes to social housing. The Housing Ombudsman recently found that a significant amount of social housing tenants had raised complaints due to the failures and delays by landlords.

The numbers tell a sobering tale: a four-fold increase in the most severe findings, an all-time high in escalated complaints, and a noticeable disparity between the services landlords provide and the expectations of their tenants. In light of these formidable challenges, social housing projects can offer some respite, bringing a distinctive and compassionate approach to the social housing landscape. This view, rooted in compassion and innovation, holds the potential to drive the much-needed reform within the sector.

The current state of social housing

The uphill battle for social housing is clear. The report from the Housing Ombudsman Service demonstrates a 28% increase in complaints escalated for formal investigation in the past year, driven by issues like poor property conditions, complaints handling, and health and safety concerns. Property condition complaints alone account for a staggering 37% of all findings. The story of Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old who tragically lost his life due to mould exposure in his home, serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of these issues.

How can social housing projects tackle the problem

As we navigate the challenges within the realm of social housing, it is heartening to witness numerous organisations committed to transforming the landscape. Social housing, a cornerstone of housing support for vulnerable populations, plays a pivotal role in providing shelter, security, and dignity to those in need. Within this diverse sector, there are shining examples like the Assisted Living Project, each with its unique attributes and commitment to making a difference. The significance of these projects extends far beyond their specific names, for they epitomise a set of essential principles that every social housing initiative should uphold.

  1. Advocating for vulnerable residents: In the domain of social housing, a profound duty emerges – to stand as the steadfast advocates for individuals confronted by vulnerability, including the elderly and those with disabilities. It is imperative that anyone engaged in social housing projects wholeheartedly dedicates themselves to guaranteeing that residents receive the compassionate care and support that is unquestionably their due.
  2. Embracing comprehensive holistic support: Social housing goes beyond mere accommodation; it embodies the provision of comprehensive, holistic support. It isn’t solely about offering shelter; it’s about ensuring that residents have unhindered access to vital support services that nurture both their physical and mental well-being.
  3. Pioneering systemic change through advocacy: The essence of any social housing endeavour extends beyond the confines of housing itself. It encompasses a steadfast dedication to advocacy and catalysing systemic change. Social housing projects actively seek collaborations with local authorities, housing regulators, and other stakeholders to address the foundational issues within the sector, fostering enduring improvements.

The current state of social housing in the UK demands urgent attention and action. We must collectively work to ensure that every tenant, regardless of their circumstances, can live in a safe, clean, and healthy environment. Together, we can transform the social housing landscape and ensure that residents’ reasonable expectations are not just met but exceeded. It’s time to turn the wake-up call into a call for action.

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