Proposals to reduce rents paid by tenants in social housing in England by 1 per cent a year will cost councils £2.6 billion by 2019/20, new analysis reveals today.

The measure, as part of the Welfare and Work Bill, would see the rent reduction come into force from 2016 and last for four years. The cost to councils will rise from £234 million in year one, to £508 million in year two, £795 million in year three, and over £1 billion by 2019/20. By that point the annual funding gap will represent 60 per cent of local government’s total housing maintenance budget. Over the four years the total £2.6 billion will be equivalent to the cost of building almost 19,000 new homes.

Cllr Keith House, LGA Lib Dem Housing Spokesperson, said: “Liberal Democrats support moves to keep rents low but this move would hold back councils from helping government build more homes, boost growth and employment and reduce the welfare bill.

“Because around 70 per cent of council tenants receive Housing Benefit, any rent decrease will not impact them directly. Instead it will be reflected in the Department of Work and Pensions’ budget, while local councils will have to cope with the additional financial burden.”

Lib Dems are calling for the flexibility and powers to manage their own housing stock to meet the needs of local communities and employers over the long-term, as was intended by government in the 2012 housing reforms.

Keith House added:

“Many councils have already agreed long-term housing investment plans based on the future rent levels announced in March’s Budget. It is right that rents are kept as low as possible, but our analysis shows reducing rents in this way over the next four years will cost councils £2.6 billion by the end of the decade and lead to a further funding gap of £1 billion per year from 2020/21 onwards.

“There are millions of people on social housing waiting lists and councils want to get on with the job of building the new homes that people in their areas desperately need, which is the best way to reduce the Housing Benefit bill and boost growth. And Housing Associations will also be hit hard, estimating they would build 14,000 fewer affordable homes.

“It is therefore vital that these costs are considered by the Government as part of the wider debate of council funding to avoid the capacity of councils and housing associations to invest in this much-needed housing being put at risk. For instance councils should be able to keep all the receipts from the sales of their own housing stock.”

The Local Government Association has called on government to let councils take a lead role in housebuilding by lifting housing borrowing limits to allow councils to invest in new housing, giving councils the freedom to set Right to Buy discounts, and to retain 100 per cent of all council home sale receipts locally.


  • Based on an average cost for a new build council home of £140,000, £2.6 billion would equate to 18,790 homes. 
  • A gap of around £1 billion per year would develop once the lower rent base of Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1 per cent is reintroduced in 2020/21.
  • The impact year on year for the next four years is outlined below:
£000s £000s £000s £000s £000s
15/16 16/17 17/18 18/19 19/20
Old policy 7,310,442 7,471,272 7,672,996 7,887,840 8,116,587
New policy 7,310,442 7,237,338 7,164,964 7,093,315 7,022,381
Gap 0 233,934 508,032 794,525 1,094,206


David Payne says

Will this 5-year reduction in social housing rents apply to housing association shared-equity schemes, where most tenants normally pay commercial lenders a mortgage payment for a private "freehold" ownership share while also paying the housing association rent for the "leasehold" rent applicable to the publicly-owned h.a. share of the property?

I need to know this as chairman of a 60-strong residents association which has trouble eliciting any reliable information from our shambolic housing association landlord.

Darrel Phomphithak says

Your Housing Benefit could be reduced if you live in council or social housing and have a spare bedroom. Your eligible rent is £100 per week.

Freddy Tews says

Rooms used by students and members of the armed or reserve forces will not be counted as ‘spare’ if they’re away and intend to return home. Housing Benefit for tenants who rent privately.

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