Living in social housing: the disturbing facts

The UK is currently experiencing a severe housing crisis with an insufficient number of homes to meet the demand of people who require secure and affordable accommodation. The lack of new homes being built places a spotlight on the condition of existing properties under council or housing association control, where it can be a challenge to keep one’s home in a safe and liveable condition. As a social housing tenant, you should not have to endure conditions that render your home unsafe or inhabitable. The quality of your home has a significant impact on your well-being. Here are ten disturbing facts about living in social housing accommodation in the UK.

Almost one in seven council or housing association properties in England – more than half a million social housing homes – do not currently do not meet the national Decent Homes Standard.

In England, almost one in seven council or housing association properties, which amounts to over half a million social housing homes, do not meet the national Decent Homes Standard. According to the government, all homes must meet this statutory council and housing association standard, which requires properties to be free from any hazard that poses a serious threat to your health or safety, be in a reasonable state of repair, have reasonably modern facilities and efficient heating and insulation. Persistent, untreated mould or damp, poorly-maintained electrical systems, kitchens or bathrooms that are cramped or have not been improved or updated in 30 years, and excessive cold from inefficient heating systems or poor insulation are examples of the failures to meet this standard.

Of the 525,000 houses that fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard, nearly half (244,000) have a category-one safety hazard – the highest category of risk to its inhabitants.

Nearly half of the 525,000 houses that fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard, which amounts to 244,000 houses, have a category-one safety hazard, which is the highest category of risk to its inhabitants. The biggest threats to a tenant’s health and well-being include potentially deadly hazards such as exposed electrical wiring, overloaded electricity sockets, dangerous boilers, a leaking roof, rat and vermin infestations, and security risks such as a broken lock on an external door or window. Local authorities are legally obliged to act if a category-one hazard is discovered, but many complaints made by tenants are ignored.

There are almost four times as many households on waiting lists as there are homes available.

There are almost four times as many households on waiting lists as there are homes available. According to a survey by housing and homelessness charity Shelter, 100,000 households have been on council home waiting lists for over ten years. This demand for rental properties means that landlords, both private and social, will believe they hold all the cards, and tenants have fewer other options to consider.

The number of substandard homes under local authority control is rising.

Last year’s English Housing Survey revealed that a total of 76,814 council-owned properties were found to be ‘non-decent’ or in substandard condition in March last year, an increase of more than 5,500 non-decent homes since 2019 and 6,500 more than in the previous year. Ensuring that homes are warm, weather-tight, safe, and secure should be a priority for council and housing association officials. Failing to do so may put tenants and their families at risk.

It’s believed that, in England, 364,000 social homes are classified as being in a state of ‘substantial disrepair’. Damp in one or more rooms is thought to affect more than 205,000 social housing properties.

In England, 364,000 social homes are classified as being in a state of ‘substantial disrepair’. More than 205,000 social housing properties are affected by damp in one or more rooms. Damp is one of the most common problems in council and housing association properties and is generally caused by leaks or poor ventilation.

More than 338,000 homes that are rented by tenants under the age of 35 are deemed so hazardous they are likely to cause harm.

The scarcity of affordable housing has resulted in a limited availability of rental options for young adults. As a consequence, individuals often resort to leasing unsanitary and unsafe accommodations from housing associations and private landlords in desperation. Even if there are better-maintained and less hazardous housing alternatives, many tenants lack the financial resources to relocate. Additionally, these alternatives may not be easily accessible. Consequently, many occupants of such residences feel trapped and feel that they must tolerate substandard living conditions.

Almost half of families who are living in social housing and reported issues about poor or unsafe conditions felt ignored or were refused help.

A significant proportion of social housing tenants are living in poverty, with many struggling to make ends meet. According to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in 2019/20, 23% of social renters in England were living in poverty, compared to 19% of homeowners. This poverty is exacerbated by the high cost of energy bills and with many social housing properties having inadequate insulation and heating systems, this leads to higher energy bills for tenants.

Almost four in five of people with mental health problems believe that their housing had had a negative impact on their mental health.

Research has shown that social housing tenants are more likely to suffer from ill health than those in private housing. This is due to a range of factors, including substandard living conditions and inadequate heating and insulation due to a low income.


The link between poor quality housing and ill health is well-established.  Social housing tenants are at greater risk of a range of health problems including respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease and mental health issues due to stress of living in such conditions.

There are 1.5 million people currently living in overcrowded social homes in England.

If two individuals of different genders residing in a house must share a room, the residence is considered overcrowded. Over the course of five years, the number of people living in such conditions has increased by 44%. Despite the existence of over a million households on the waiting list for rehousing, only 7,000 new social homes were constructed last year. Due to the scarcity of social housing, occupants can sometimes be hesitant to make claims against their landlords for fear of being evicted.

The Housing Ombudsman received a significant increase in the number of housing disrepair complaints at the start of 2021.

Social housing tenants often face stigma and discrimination, with negative stereotypes about social housing perpetuated by the media and politicians. This can make it harder for tenants to access employment, education, and other opportunities, and can contribute to feelings of isolation and exclusion


In conclusion living in social housing can be a challenging experience, with many tenants facing poor living conditions, poverty, and discrimination. While there are laws in place to protect social housing tenants, many landlords are failing to meet their obligations, putting the health and well-being of tenants at risk.


It is essential that the UK government takes action to address the housing crisis and ensure that all social housing properties meet the Decent Homes Standard. This includes investing in the construction of new affordable homes and improving the condition of existing properties.


Social housing tenants have the right to safe and secure housing, and it is the responsibility of landlords and policymakers to ensure that this right is upheld.


If you are a council or housing association tenant with no rent arrears and feel that your requests for repairs are being ignored, get in touch with us now to see if you are eligible to make a claim for housing disrepair.  If eligible, we can fight for your repairs and compensation on a no-win, no-fee basis which means you pay nothing if you lose and we only claim 30% of your award if you are successful.  You have nothing to lose – contact us today and speak to one of our friendly experts.

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