The history of housing associations

housing associations


Housing associations date back to at least 1235 when an Alm House in Cirencester was established to provide shelter for the sick.

The modern housing association movement was established in the late 19th century when Victorian philanthropists set up charitable housing trusts to help homeless people and to alleviate poverty.

Housing associations such as Octavia, Guinness Partnership and Peabody were first founded during this period.

In the early party of the 20th century housing associations continued to form, and alongside local councils, they played a vital role in alleviating slum conditions.

World War II created a significant need for new houses across the country but particularly in those areas affected by bombing raids, where overcrowding was now rife. This was particularly exacerbated by the almost non-existent housebuilding programme during the war years, and the ‘baby boom’ of the late 1940s. The need for good-quality housing to move people out of ‘squalor’ was widely recognised.

After the second World War, the building of council houses boomed as the UK invested in social housing for post-war workers. But, during the 1st half of the 20th century, housing association homes made up a small proportion of social housing overall.

Thankfully this changed in the 1960s and 1970s thanks to an increase in public awareness by the influential film Cathy Came Home alongside homelessness campaigns and newly established charities such as Crisis and Shelter. As a result, many new housing associations were founded during this time with the aim of tackling the rise of homelessness in the UK.

A new Housing Act was brought into place in 1974 which was great news for housing associations as it meant that they could receive public funding for the very first time to build new social homes. In 1980 there were over 400,000 housing association homes in England alone.

At the back end of the 1980s a lot of councils shifted their social housing into housing association ownership via large-scale Voluntary Transfer agreements. On top of this housing associations were also awarded new freedoms to borrow private funding to build new homes, which helped to top up their funding they received from the government. Between 1990 and 2010 they built 419,000 new homes.

Changes to government funding has shaped the recent work of housing associations. Back in 2010, funding for building new affordable housing was reduced by 60%. Which meant that housing associations had to adapt to the changes by generating their own income to build affordable rented homes and social housing. Housing associations started to develop a lot more homes for sale and market rent and then invested the proceeds into building more social homes.

Between 2015/16 and 2018/19 HA’s managed to build 20,000 social rented homes in this way, and around 77,000 for affordable rent and around 43,000 for shared ownership.

Housing associations today

Did you know that housing associations provide homes for nearly six million people in England? Offering a mix of social housing, specialist housing, shared ownership homes, market homes to rent and buy.

Social rented and affordable housing is the most common type of home housing associations provide? These are offered to people on lower incomes at a subsidised rent.

Housing associations build lots of new homes for communities across the country. In 2018/19 they built over 45,000 new homes. This figure includes 5,000 homes for social rent, 19,000 homes for affordable rent and 14,000 homes for shared ownership.

Did you know that HA’s have an ambition to build lots of new homes each year? England requires 340,000 new homes a year, of which 145,000 need to be social and affordable homes.

What we love about housing associations is that they make long-term commitments to the communities they work in! Running services for local people, including training and advice, apprenticeships and so much more.

In addition to this, HA’s invest into the regeneration of poor-quality homes and work with local authorities and residents to create thriving places where people want to live.

About Thermatic Homes

Thermatic Homes are a national M&E contractor based in Greater Manchester that provides a one-stop solution for housing associations across the UK, from mechanical and electrical services, retrofit and refurbishment services, to build and renewable energy installations and training.

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