Over 630,000 living in ‘hazardous conditions’, report
A major report has revealed that 631,000 people in England are living in ‘hazardous conditions’.
In response to 2017’s Grenfell Tower disaster, and commissioned by homelessness charity Shelter, ‘A Vision for Social Housing’ consulted over 31,000 people from across the country and brought together 16 commissioners from across the political spectrum.
The report reveals that 3.1 million people in England need a social home – and of the 1.27m in greatest need: 631,000 live in hazardous conditions; 240,000 live in overcrowded accommodation; 194,00 live with ill health or disability; 128,000 are rough sleeping and hidden; and 79,900 are homeless and in temporary accommodation.
Asking ‘what is the future of social housing’, the authors state that the country is ‘feeling the effects of 40 years of failure in housing policy’ and specifically blame:
- A failure to build enough homes. Over the past five years, housebuilding has averaged 166,000 a year, yet government wants to deliver 300,000 homes a year
- Huge waiting lists for social homes. Today, 277,000 people are homeless
- The explosion in the numbers renting privately, unable to buy or access social housing
- Huge rises in welfare costs to government, driven by more people renting privately at higher costs
According to the report, if the crisis is to be solved, 3m new social homes must be built over the next 20 years.
The commission warns that without a ‘radically different approach’ the country faces a future in which:
- A generation of young families will be trapped renting privately for their whole lives, while more and more will face living in dangerous accommodation or going into debt
- By 2040, as many as one-third of 60-year-olds could be renting privately, facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction at any point
- £billions more in welfare costs will be paid to private landlords due to a lack of more affordable social housing
- Over the next 20 years, hundreds of thousands more people will be forced into homelessness by insecure tenancies and sky-high housing costs
Nadine, a private renter who contributed to the report, lives with her teenage daughter and works two jobs – yet still struggles to keep up with the rent. She said: ‘My rent is over half my monthly income, so that’s where most of my money goes. It’s hard to afford other things we need. I am cutting back and doing the best I can, but there are times we can’t live on the money we’ve got.
‘We budget on our food and it’s very rare that I buy anything full price. I shop around to take advantage of all the vouchers and deals I can get.
‘No one should have to spend more than a third of their income on rent. If they are going to set a minimum wage, then there should be places you can afford to rent on that income – how can it be a living wage if you can’t find anywhere to live on it?’
One of those who contributed to the report’s recommendations on reforming social renting was Rob Gershon, Lead of the HQN Residents’ Network, who said: ‘I’ve always thought of myself as incredibly lucky to be a social housing tenant… On the two occasions I’ve come to rely on social housing, it has been there to make sure my family has had somewhere to live.’
The commission recommends:
- Setting clearer standards
- Ensuring speedier redress for individual complaints
- Proactive enforcement of regulation to protect social renters
- Giving residents a voice in landlord governance and decision-making
- Giving residents a voice in decisions made by national, regional, and local government