Private Rental Sector vs. Social Housing

In the Friday’s Bricks & Mortar section of the Times (of London) is an article indicating rents are down slightly in the Uk as a whole. The reason given is a temporary rush to beat the change in the stamp duty. In other words, the article thinks rents will level or rise in future months.

At the end of the article is the following quote:

“Government figures show that the gap between those renting privately and people living in social housing narrowed to just 200,000, from more than three million 30 years ago. Ludlowthompson, a London letting agent, estimates that more people will be living in private rented accommodation than in social housing by the end of the year.”

I have two questions.

Does anyone have a handle on the total size of the rental sector and the size 30 years ago? While a shift from social housing to the PRS might be interesting, I think the shift lives in a bigger context. The PRS did not exist in any real sense 20 years ago given the eviction laws and other restrictions on the fundamentals of the PRS business model.

My second question is broader. Who has a good definition of social housing. Other than people are social, what defines social housing vs. housing that is not part of the category? Is it nothing more than the status of the owner (charity, government, private party)? Does social housing have to be housing rented at below market rents (subsidised in some fashion)?