What might it take to deliver the supported housing that England needs?

Bekah Ryder, 17 April 2024

Bekah Ryder, Research and Insights Manager at Altair Ltd., explains what new research comissioned by the NHF on future supported housing need and cost means for the sector and why we need a long-term plan for housing. 

There are an estimated 573,000 supported housing units, including housing for older people, across England, most of which (around 510,000) are owned by social landlords, housing associations and local authorities.

These social landlords, along with charities and voluntary organisations, are incredibly committed to supported housing. And with good reason. Supported housing improves health and wellbeing outcomes for residents and takes pressure off services. Research has found that supported housing for working aged adults prevents 41,000 more people from becoming homeless. In 2010, it was found to save the public purse an average of £940 per resident per year, which would be worth £1,390 in 2024.

The work that this part of the social housing sector does is vital for the most vulnerable in our society, yet this is not always recognised at the level of political attention or public investment. This lack of oversight and coordinated funding has arguably led to issues within the sector, which the government has sought to address through the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023.

Despite this, there is currently no government plan for provision in the long-term future, nor any long-term funding in the present. This is why, as part of their campaign for a long-term plan for housing, the National Housing Federation commissioned Altair to estimate how much supported housing is needed to 2040, and the cost of meeting this need.

What will future supported housing need look like?

Using available data on supply and lettings, alongside population projections, we estimate that at least 167,000 more supported housing homes (including housing for older people) are needed by 2040 from registered providers. This is a 33% increase from 2023, meaning a total of just over 677,000 units in 2040. We estimate the development costs for the additional units would be £33.9bn to 2040, with a further £7.1bn required in 2040 for annual rent and service charges. Long-term, ringfenced funding for housing-related support is also required, at an estimated cost of £3.4bn per year in 2040.

Most of this change is driven by an increasingly ageing population - around three quarters would be for older people and the remaining quarter for working-aged adults.

Why do we need a long-term plan for supported housing?

Through the research, supported housing providers told us about the different pressures within the system, particularly around a lack of long-term funding for housing-related support. As one housing association in our focus group said “supported housing disappears when the revenue funding disappears”. These challenges make it difficult for providers to develop schemes and their workforce.

Supported housing transforms people’s lives; every decision about care should be a decision about housing. For too long supported housing has been neglected by politicians and subject to funding cuts, disadvantaged by sitting at the juncture of three dysfunctional systems – housing, health, and social care. As we go into a general election, and we see the continued pressure that supported housing is under, let’s make sure politicians and policymakers are listening to its value and what it will take to provide supported housing for all who need it.