New census data study highlights rate of decline in social housing since 1971

The number of social renting households in England fell from a peak over 5.1 million in 1981 to a low of 3.9 million in 2011, with the biggest decrease (of over 850,000) between 1981 and 1991, according to a study of population change undertaken in the University of Liverpool.

The study uses a new data resource – PopChange – which provides Census data for consistent areas for the Censuses of 1971 to 2011, providing a new level of insight into neighbourhood-level social change that has not been available before.

The research shows that the largest decrease in social renting household numbers between 1981 and 2011 was in the North East (40%), while the smallest decrease was in London (10%). Even over the decade 2001 to 2011, there were large decreases in the proportion of social renting households in some neighbourhoods, especially in parts of London, Manchester and Birmingham, where there were decreases of over 40%.

But while social housing has declined, the private rented sector has recently experienced a resurgence. After falling in every region of England between 1971 and 1991, private renting bounced back in the subsequent two decades, growing in every region and particularly in urban areas.

The new study also reveals those neighbourhoods that are most dominated by one tenure, and those with the most diverse mix of home ownership, private renting and social renting. Housing tenure diversity is greatest in urban areas, and especially more central areas of London.  Between 1971 and 2011, there was an increase in housing tenure diversity in most urban areas; in the decade from 2001 specifically there were large increases in diversity in central London.

Chris Lloyd, Professor of Quantitative Geography at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Geography & Planning, said: “The results show huge changes in housing tenure in some parts of England, with very large fluctuations in the percentages of households which were social renting, private renting, and owner occupied.”

“The study shows that some neighbourhoods have seen extremely large declines in social renting households; in many such areas, especially in outer London, there has been major growth in private renting, along with a large increase in population density. The results help us to identify hotspots of decline in social renting housing where schemes for building new social housing might be best targeted.”

PopChange is a freely available resource which can be used by the public, data officers, local and central government, and planners to analyse and map population changes in neighbourhoods of England over the last five Censuses.

PopChange was developed with support from the Economic and Social Research Council through the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. The project team worked with Clear Mapping Co to create a public web resource that allows anyone to make population comparisons for small areas across the country. PopChange is based within the University’s Centre for Spatial Demographics Research.

The study ‘Housing Tenure Change in England’ was co-authored by Professor Chris Lloyd from the University’s Centre for Spatial Demographics Research and James Gleeson from the Greater London Authority and can be found here.

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