Major UK Housing Associations Struggle With Shaky Finances

view of low rise council housing in Plymouth UK
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The Regulator of Social Housing in England has lowered the financial viability rating of several larger housing associations, including the owner of these social rent flats in Plymouth.

In 2021, the United Kingdom government published The Social Housing White Paper serving notice that tenants deserved to be on the same page as their landlords. While not expecting an instantaneous solution, it was clear that the national government was fed up with the apparent disconnect between tenants and their landlords. The issue? Concerns about possible health and safety failures in social rent housing deserve a timely, constructive response.

The White Paper announced that government would take steps to become an effective scold of landlords, who in turn would snap to attention and redress tenant issues that required appropriate, even immediate, attention.

After amending existing inspection regimes/creating new ones, we are gradually seeing:

    • more public airing/awareness of tenant complaints
    • a public acknowledgement by landlords that they need to do better 
    • some evidence of problems addressed
    • some evidence of problems still very much not addressed1, and
    • clear evidence that the funding to make essential changes happen is inadequate.

With few exceptions worldwide, it’s generally understood that the rents paid by low and no income residents is not enough to properly service their social rent homes, let alone build new ones. Indeed, with inflation and energy costs soaring, residents may well be living on the edge of starvation and/or freezing to death.

Are housing associations to blame for this state of affairs? Certainly they are at the mercy — as is everyone — of the current financial upheavals in Britain — for example, the soaring cost of borrowing money.

In the face of economic hard times, what can possibly be done to address the situation but more government funding? It is well beyond the remit and budget of Housing Associations themselves.

With Housing Associations a big part of the UK’s social rent housing picture, evidence of their declining financial stability is to be found in evaluation reports by the Regulator of Social Housing. Read more in NewsnReleases: Regulator downgrades viability ratings of large housing associations

There should be no recourse here to remorseful government belt-tightening excuses. We’re looking at a basic human right — a Human Right to Habitable Housing:

‘Habitable’ includes “physical safety, adequate space, as well as protection
against the cold, damp, heat, rain, wind, other threats to health and structural hazards.”(p 4, The Right to Adequate Housing)


  1. Try: Moulds Don’t Bother Many But For Some In Social Housing They Are Deadly