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#SocialHousing – the reality of what’s to come

The previous #SocialHousing position

If we turn back time and go back a decade or so, we would consider #SocialHousing to be an opportunity for those who had low income to find a place they can call home. Where a council had accepted a duty to house a homeless person/family, that individual/family was far more likely to secure suitable accommodation in the social sector. For example, most councils general position (noted in their policies) was that applicants would be given three offers of accommodation. If all three were rejected then the council would advise that their duty would come to an end. Why was it easier back then? It’s quite simple. It is because councils had enough housing stock to offer vulnerable individuals/families on low income, social housing.

The current #SocialHousing position

Several years have passed and the councils have changed their policies. They reduced their potential offers from three to two and now the current position is that most councils will only offer one property, regardless of whether it is suitable or not. If you do not accept the offer the council may discharge their duty towards you and leave you with no accommodation at all. Their reasons are that the social housing stock is really low and they believe the accommodation provided is suitable considering the current #HousingCrisis. They also use this reason to offer accommodation outside of their own Borough. Therefore, it is not uncommon for families to be offered accommodation in places such as Birmingham and Bradford. It is also important to note that the properties offered are mostly private properties, not social housing. So you may be accommodated in Birmingham or Bradford but it still may not be in social housing.

Some argue that councils are sending families out of the borough because it is cheaper for councils within London to offer accommodation outside the capital. The Victoria Derbyshire Show found that some councils are even buying one-way tickets for #homeless people to move out of their areas. As stated within the BBC article, some councils spent more than £1,000 a year on fares. While the intention may be to allow #homeless people to reconnect with family, some were provided with tickets for places they had not ever been before.

This is very unfair. It is unreasonable for families who are settled in jobs and schools to uproot themselves and move away from their current homes, especially when this could be a 100 miles away. It is safe to say that #SocialHousing may get worse.

There could be many reasons for why #SocialHousing is now almost non-existent. It could be because the right-to-buy scheme and government compulsory purchases continue to reduce the #SocialHousing stock without adequate replacements. It could be that #SocialHousing was not considered priority and the ongoing #HousingCrisis has now only come to light due to recent events.

Either way, we need to find a way to deal with the fact that there is simply not enough #SocialHousing. Without addressing this, the #HousingCrisis will continue.

What next?

What is the solution? One solution put forward to tackle the #HousingCrisis is to build 250,000 affordable homes. Sadiq Khan has decided to relax the rules to make this happen. What the Government may not really understand is whether these homes will be affordable for families on low income. The cost of housing has increased in recent years so building more homes does not necessarily mean that vulnerable individuals/families on low income can afford them. It seems that affordable housing is not considered in conjunction with individuals earnings. For example, a single person on low income may not be able to rent a house as it unaffordable. @guardianhousing reported that ‘figures show that the number of homes built at social rent with government subsidy made up just 13% of the total affordable housing stock in the last year’.

So are we confusing the two? #SocialHousing and affordable housing could be two very different things. ‘Affordable homes’ may not necessarily be affordable for individuals who actually need #SocialHousing. Will #ukhousing strategies assist us to keep #SocialHousing or will affordable homes replace #SocialHousing. If #SocialHousing is replaced by affordable homes will it still be out of reach for families on low income? Siddiq discusses the mayor’s housing strategy in his blog. The issue of affordable housing vs #SocialHousing is partly addressed in the housing strategy. Will this resolve the current social housing/affordable homes issues? Only time will tell.