Marginal increase in number of social housing tenants in Scotland

An estimated 1.17 million people live in social rented housing in Scotland, while the average rents for Scottish social housing tenants is up to 21% lower than those in England, official figures have shown.

The Social Tenants in Scotland 2016 publication from Scotland’s Chief Statistician, found that the number of people living in social rented housing in Scotland in 2016 was estimated to be 1.17 million, a similar figure to the estimated 1.14 million people in the previous year.

The average rents for social housing tenants in Scotland were around 18% lower for housing association homes and 21% lower for local authority homes when compared with figures for England, it added.

Published today, the report is the second annual statistical compendium publication on social tenants and social rented housing in Scotland, covering topic areas such as stock, household characteristics, housing flows, and rents and income levels. The publication is based on an analysis of a range of existing data sources, and includes trend data for earlier years and comparisons with other housing tenures and with other parts of the UK where possible.

Elsewhere, the proportion of social rented stock in Scotland was 23% in 2016 compared to 17% in England and 16% in Wales.

Social rented housing stock in 2016 was provided by 161 housing associations and 26 out of 32 local authorities, with six authorities no longer managing housing stock due to previous stock transfers to housing associations.

Social rented housing stock in 2016 totalled 594,458 units (316,553 local authority properties and 277,905, housing association properties), a slight decrease of 594 (0.1%) homes from 595,052 units in 2015.

Local authorities generally had a larger size of stock in 2016 compared to housing associations, with almost two-thirds (65%) of the 26 local authorities having stock levels between 5,001 and 20,000 homes, whilst more than eight in ten (83%) housing associations had stock levels of 2,500 homes or less.

Around 71% of housing associations operated in a single local authority area in 2016, 19% operated in two to five different local authority areas, whilst the remaining 10% operated across six or more local authority areas.

A total of 53% of social rented housing stock in 2016 was owned by local authorities, with 47% being owned by housing associations.

Compared to households buying with a mortgage, social rented households were more likely to have: a female highest income householder; an adult whose economic status was permanently sick or disabled; an adult with a long term physical or mental health condition; a net household income of under £20k per year; and, more likely to be in the lowest 20% income households.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Ensuring everyone has access to good quality, warm and affordable homes is a key priority for this government, and in creating a fairer Scotland – social housing sits at the heart of that. The social housing sector provides a place to call home for well over a million people, for a particularly diverse population, and in some of our most deprived communities – we are determined to keep building on that progress.

“Social housing in Scotland continues to be more affordable than England or Wales, which is vital at a time when UK government welfare cuts are having a devastating impact on people across the country.  We are increasing funding for discretionary housing payments – which significantly benefit those living in the social housing sector – by 5%, to over £60 million in 2018/19. That will enable us to continue mitigating the bedroom tax, and provide a lifeline for those who need extra help.

“Since 2007 we have delivered nearly 71,000 affordable homes, with almost 70% of those being for social rent. Over this Parliament we have a commitment to deliver 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 for social rent. We have put in place a number of measures to deliver that, in addition to ending the right to buy, keeping existing social housing stock in the sector and protecting it for future generations.”

Other findings include:

Characteristics of Social Tenants

  • 30% of social rented households in 2016 were single working age adults, an increase from 18% in 1999. 19% of households were single pensioners, a decrease from 25% in 1999.
  • The average age of the highest income householder in social rented housing in 2016 was 52 years, similar to the average of 53 years in 1999.
  • Social rented households in Scotland in 2016 had a higher proportion of female highest income householders (53%)than private rented households (45%), households with the property bought with a mortgage (35%) and households where the property was owned outright (40%).
  • 38% of adults in social rented households in 2016 were employed(24% employed full time, 11% employed part time, and 3% self-employed). 23% of adults were retired from work, 13% were permanently sick or disabled, 9% were looking after the home or family, and 9% were unemployed and seeking work.
  • In the period 2013 to 2016, 86% of adults in social rented households stated they were ‘White Scottish’, a higher percentage than private rented households (57%).
  • 3% of adults in social rented households identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or otherin 2015, a similar percentage to the private rented sector (3%), but higher than in households that were owned outright (1%) or owned with a mortgage (1%), however these differences are only marginally statistically significant.
  • In the period from 2013 to 2016, 52% of adults in social rented housing said they had no religion, an increase on the 45% between 2009 and 2012. The percentage of adults with a Church of Scotland religion decreased over this time period from 29% to 22%, whilst the proportion with a Roman Catholic religion stayed similar from 18% to 17%.

Housing Flows

  • In 2016/17 there were a total of 52,924 social rented housing lets, a drop of 1,108 lets, or 2%, on the 54,032 lets in 2015/16.
  • In 2016/17 49% of lets were by local authorities, and 51% were by housing associations. This compares to local authorities having 53% of all social rented housing stock as at March 2016.
  • 38% of lets by local authorities in 2016/17 were to housing list applicants, compared to 52% of lets by housing associations. (Where applicants were not already existing tenants).
  • In 2016/17 90% of local authority lets and 82% of housing association lets were general needs lets.
  • Adults in social rented households in Scotland in 2016 had been at their current address for an average of 11 years, a shorter average time than in 1999 (12 years).
  • Local authority properties were on average empty for 36.0 calendar daysbefore being re-let in 2016/17. Housing association properties were on average empty for 26.8 calendar days.
  • For social rented households in Scotland in which an adult had moved into the address within the last 12 months in 2016, nearly half of adults (49%) had a previous address which was also social rented. 16% had a previous address that was their parental/family home, whilst 19% had a previous address that was rented privately.

Housing Costs and Income

  • The average weekly rent for a social sector property in Scotland in 2016/17 was £74.44, an increase of 2.1% on the previous year. Housing association rents averaged £80.28 per week, 16% higher than local authority rents of £69.20.
  • 68% of social rented households in 2016 had a net income of £20k or less, which compares to 45% of private rented households, 45% of households owned outright and 16% of households buying with a mortgage
  • Across the period 2013/14 to 2015/16, social rented households in Scotland spent an average of 24% of their net income on housing costs. This figure compares to equivalent figures of 25% for private rented households, 9% for households owning their property with a mortgage and 3% for households owning their property outright. (Note that housing costs include rent gross of housing benefit, as well as water rates and service charges where applicable. Net income relates to all household income after personal taxes and council tax have been netted off. See Section 5 of the publication for further details of how this percentage figure has been calculated).
  • 32% of social rented households in Scotland spent more than 30% of their net income on housing costsin the period 2013/14 to 2015/16, lower than the equivalent figures of 50% for England and 46% for Wales.
  • 61% of social rented households received housing benefit in 2016, with a further 1% receiving the housing element of universal credit. This compares to 23% of private rented sector households receiving housing benefit, with a further 1% receiving the housing element of universal credit.
  • For households claiming housing benefit, social rented households had on average 94% of the value of their housing costs covered by housing benefit (calculation based on a median ratio figure), which compares to 84% for private rented households.
  • In 2016, 31% of social rented households in Scotland stated that they managed well financially, an increase from 21% in 1999.