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Affordable Rents compared to traditional social rents

This analysis looks at the difference between ‘Affordable Rent’ and traditional council and housing association rent levels (social rent).

Written by:
JRF analysis unit
Date published:

Rent payments are the single biggest cost for many households. Access to low-cost social rented housing is a key issue in preventing low income families being swept into poverty.

The cost of renting in the social housing sector has steadily increased in recent years, as existing rents rose, and many new lettings are at higher market-linked ‘Affordable Rents’.


Affordable Rents for typical two-bed properties work out at 30% more expensive than social rents. On average this is £1,400 per year.

Affordable Rents are more expensive throughout England, but the difference is noticeably bigger in Southern Regions.

Yorkshire and the Humber is the region with the smallest difference between the types of rent at £650 per year, in the South East this is £2,000 per year and in London it’s £3,350 per year.

There are ten London boroughs where the difference is over £5,000.


2016/17 rent data was taken from the latest Homes and Communities Agency dataset of all private registered providers of social housing in England, released on 24 October 2017. The dataset has monthly rents for all property types from private registered providers of social housing in England, split by Local Authority area.

The following tables were used (these bullets refer to tabs in the SDR 2016 to 2017: data release MS Excel Spreadsheet):

  • Social rent (SDR17_Rents_by_LA_General_Needs)
  • Affordable Rent (SDR17_Aff_Rent_by_LA_GN)

The average social and Affordable Rents for general needs two-bed housing were calculated based on the mean cost of all general needs two-bed units across the Local Authority Districts. There are 326 such areas and they include single-tier unitary and metropolitan authorities and lower-tier county districts. Information was unavailable for three districts: Barrow-in-Furness, Isles of Scilly and City of London.

Average social and Affordable Rents have also been calculated at a regional and national level.

These figures are for England and do not take into account service charges, supported housing or housing for older people.

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