Tory-led cuts have seen more than 150,000 homes for social rent disappear in the last five year, new analysis has revealed.
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has calculated the number of homes available to rent by those on lower incomes has dropped by almost four percent since 2012.
CIH predicts that a further 79,000 will be lost by 2020 as it warned of the “urgent need” for more support for the social housing sector.
The coalition government cut the money available for social homes in 2010, with resources diverted into ‘affordable rent’ schemes.
Labour said the analysis “lays bare the haemorrhage of low-cost housing” since the Tories came to power.
Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat said: “For many people on lower incomes, the only truly affordable option is social rent.
“It is simply unacceptable that we are losing so many of our most affordable homes at a time when more and more people are in need.”
She added: “The Prime Minister is absolutely right to make housing a priority, and some of the things the government is doing will help.
“But government investment is still heavily skewed towards the private market. Our analysis shows that 79 per cent of the housing budget up to 2020/21 is directed towards private housing, with just 21 per cent going to affordable housing.
“Rebalancing this budget, so that more money is spent on affordable homes, could make a big difference.”
Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Homes England show that 103,642 local authority homes and 46,972 housing association homes for social rent were lost between 2012 and 2017.
Most of the losses were down to homes being converted to ‘affordable rent’ or being sold through the right to buy scheme, while some were demolished.
In her speech to the Conservative Party conference in October, Theresa May announced an extra £2billion would be invested in affordable housing, which would include some support for social rent.
That announcement came after Housing Secretary Sajid Javid announced a “top-to-bottom” review of social housing in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, which led to 71 deaths in the West London tower block.
But CIH said more drastic action was needed to tackle the problem, including reforming the Right to Buy policy championed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
Alafat said: “Right to Buy is undermining efforts to provide genuinely affordable homes for people on lower incomes.
“We think local authorities should be able to keep 100% of the money they receive from sales, rather than having to hand some over to the Treasury, as is currently the case.
“The government could also give councils more time to use the receipts.”
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey MP echoed Alafat’s criticism of Right to Buy, and said: “This analysis lays bare the haemorrhage of low-cost housing under the Conservatives.
“In the midst of a housing crisis, it is indefensible that communities are losing much-needed affordable homes.
“In many cases the taxpayer is paying three times over: first to build the homes, second for a right-to-buy discount of up to £100,000 per property and third for the higher housing benefit bill as more people end up in more expensive private rented homes.
“Labour will suspend the right-to-buy, only allowing properties to be sold if they are replaced like-for-like, and build at least 100,000 genuinely affordable homes a year including the biggest council house building programme in thirty years.”
There are currently 3,913,531 homes let at social rent, made up of 2,325,817 housing association homes and 1,587,714 local authority homes.