Chief Executive of Onward answers your questions | Social Housing

Bronwen Rapley is Chief Executive of Onward. Onward is the largest registered provider of social housing based solely in the North West, with 35,000 properties across the region. Before joining Onward, Bronwen was deputy director of investigation and enforcement at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). Bronwen has worked in housing and regeneration for more than 25 years.


Hi, it’s Catmad. Another question I thought of was that should Social Housing be free? Because, really, Social Housing is for those with little money. What if you had no money? Should you be given a house for free? Are you entitled to a roof over your head, food, a warm bed? A place to sleep? I think so. What do you think?

From: Catmad | Allhallows Primary Academy

Social housing is provided free for some people because they receive housing benefit to pay for their rent.  The government also pays grants to social landlords when they build some new homes so that they can charge a lower rent.  That helps people who receive housing benefit and tenants who are working and paying rent.

I do think that people should be helped when they are in need and a safe and warm home is very important. 

Catmad again, hey everyone! I was thinking, we’re very focused on Social Housing in Britain. Although the system isn’t perfect here and some say it’s not fair (at certain points me included), are there other countries that are a lot worse than us?

From: Catmad | Allhallows Primary Academy

I agree that the system for social housing here is not perfect, and it is not always fair.  We don’t have enough homes available at prices that people can afford to live in them even though housing associations are working hard to build as many as we can.

You may see on the news that many countries are in a much worse position than us.  They have what are sometimes called ‘shanty’ towns where people build homes with whatever materials they can find and in areas without proper sanitation (drainage and toilets), electricity or roads.  Many countries also do not have a welfare system where people in need receive help and so you see begging and terrible poverty.

We haven’t got everything right here but we are in a much better position than many other countries.

"The government has to decide where the balance lies between the rights of the individual to do what they want to do (so long as they do not break the law) and government’s responsibility to help people in need."

Bronwen Rapley, Onward

In my BNC, we were discussing the different solutions to the social housing problems we are having. One solution particularly stood out to me although I found it did not make sense.

The solution to be able to build more houses in the city was to “Allow more houses to be built as at the moment it is very difficult to build houses because of strict rules in Britain. If more houses were built, then the price of renting or buying a house would go down because there would be more houses to go around.”

I don’t think this makes sense because there is no SPACE to build more houses otherwise this solution would probably be happening now. To make space would mean knocking down places that are already there and that would cost money, then more money would have to be spent to actually build the houses, then as the rent would cost less it would take a long time to build up the money again to repeat the process of building houses.

This is just my opinion though. What do you think? Is this a good solution? What are your solutions?

From: blackmagic13 | Hornsey School for Girls

We can build more homes if we use the land we have well. If you live in a city like London, you might well think that there is not enough space for more houses.  If you live in other parts of the country you will find wide open spaces with not a house for miles. 

We can build more houses in cities by reusing land and buildings for homes (such as converting empty office blocks or factories into homes).  Flats are a good way of building more homes because you can build more homes on the same sized piece of land and so sometimes it might make sense to knock down one house to build many flats.  But the answer is not usually to knock down existing homes; it’s about re-using land that is no longer needed for industrial or other uses.

We need to build homes where people want to live (which is usually near where they can find work) so cities are important, but there is also a need for homes in the countryside.

Much of the land outside cities is protected, so that our countryside stays beautiful for everyone to enjoy.  This is called the ‘green belt’.  There is a big debate at the moment about whether this should change a little to allow more homes to be built.  This is often not popular because people who live near green spaces want to protect them.

I think there is not enough social housing because there isn’t enough money or land to build on. There are also so many unoccupied houses that could be used as social houses that would increase the number. Maybe the government should consider using those houses?

From: banjellacoco1 | Hornsey School for Girls

You are right that we need both money and land to build homes for social rent.  There are also a lot of empty homes. 

To use those homes as social housing, the government would have to force the owners of those homes to rent them, even if the owners do not want to do so.  The government has to decide where the balance lies between the rights of the individual to do what they want to do (so long as they do not break the law) and government’s responsibility to help people in need.

At the moment the government believes that they should not make owners rent out their empty homes but a new government could take a different view.


  1. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    I think should be free even though the government would not get any money but it is very good because if someone like people lost their wife because she want a husband that has a lot of money so to become rich anyway back to the story they lost their money and had lost his job and house so say like their rival is a billionaire and has a fancy hotel so that’s why people should get free houses to stay.

    From BloodRavens

    • Kings Heath Primary Academy Kings Heath Primary Academy

      About that, myself, I’m not quite sure.. Yes, they DO deserve Human Rights,but the long-term prospect of this would eventually all crash. The funding would prove pointless if, for example, the disabled/pregnant person doesn’t earn any money and stays in the home earning £0.00. If a family was earning but did not get the house. then what? The people should stay in accommodation, like a shelter or community, in large groups and basic skills until getting a job.

      Sorry for the long comment,

  2. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    I also think that the government should understand by now from all the comments about social housing people are arguing about house prices and scams because in the UK people just want money like if someone is offering a laptop for 90p so you got it you created an account but when you turn it on and you charged it fully and it is complete and it can’t turn it on and you hold the on button and a virus came on and your laptop crashed so it is bad.

    From BloodRavens

  3. Ben Jonson Primary School Ben Jonson Primary School

    In my opinion only some people should be provided houses for free because they might not be able to afford houses let alone cheap homes. Also homeless people should have a roof under their heads because they deserve somewhere comfy and people who do have enough money but can’t really pay their rent should be able to be provided one as well.
    By diamond giraffe

  4. Allhallows Primary Academy Allhallows Primary Academy

    While at school learning about are social housing topic i have been finding it kind of different: and it is nice( although not a particularly happy issue) to see and come to understand life for other people instead of the better lives we have. However, does more more to be done to help and will it take a massive effort or will it just take a contribution from everyone(#wemustworktogeter) to help more . For most people who need houing should something happen to allow them to easily have the homes needed and what can we, as children do.
    I have chosen this as my question because i have learnt much so far about other people and i think we should help( we are not just children) and help our country and do something good!