'70% of people now believe there is a housing crisis and they are right' – Shadow Housing Secretary
Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey spoke at the Housing Fringe on the state of social housing in the UK today.
“There are almost as many people here as there was in the conference area listening to McDonnell speak!” proclaimed the shadow housing secretary to a packed room at The Housing Fringe.
The Shadow Housing Secretary was joined by the Shadow Housing Minister Karen Buck and a panel of contributors from the housing association sector – to discuss different aspects of their service delivery and the impact of the ever-deepening housing crisis.
“70% of people now believe there is a housing crisis and they are right. Everyone knows someone who cannot get the home they need or aspire to,” warned John Healey MP.
London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing, James Murray, said evidence of the crisis was clear when examining the stats.
“80% of new homes built in London are only affordable to 8% of Londoners. What that says to me is that we need a step change in affordable housing in London.”
David Montague CEO of the housing association L&Q confirmed the grim outlook, saying he has seen a drop in their resident’s average salaries from £14,000 to £11,000.
“Things are getting worse, not better.”
A range of factors are contributing to the lack of affordable housing, but changes to the benefit system were high on the panel’s list of concerns.
“A million people used food banks last year. And the majority of them are ones who have had their benefits stopped, or cock ups that have cause delays, forcing them into poverty,” said John Healey.
“The interaction between welfare policy and housing policy is dismal,” agreed Shadow Housing Minister Karen Buck.
The Shadow Minister said this was evidenced in numerous ways: the rise of street homelessness, families stuck in temporary accommodation, and the serious reduction in the development of social rented homes as a consequence of lack of government support for subsidised rented housing?
Ms Buck said: “What we are seeing is that a good housing policy is one that delivers to everyone on all types of housing need. Those with most housing need and the least resources are being the least well served.”
Compounding the crisis is an increasingly diminished housing stock.
Brendan Sarfield, Peabody CEO said: “One of the main reasons that there is a reduction in housing association availability is that people cannot afford to move out into the private sector.
“The housing market is broken generally and just concentrating on social housing will not fix everything. If we want our residents to move on and move out, we need to address the whole system.”
One of the worst hit demographic by the housing crisis is the young.
“I am especially concerned about the under 35s and we as the Labour party need to speak up on the issue.”
Research commissioned by the case group of housing associations showed that the UK is now in a situation where 51% of young people cannot afford even lowest quartile rents? After changes to the benefit system come into place in april 2019 come into play, that will rise to 84%.
Elizabeth Austerberry, CEO of Moat, warned, “Even for those who are progressing well in a career, many will be locked out of home ownership and in an expensive and insecure private rental market.
“For many, social housing has been a vital safety net, but it will not be the case for much longer.”
The CASE report: Capping aspiration: the millennial housing challenge, revealed that barriers such as high rents, the requirement for large deposits and rent in advance, and the need to provide references and guarantors are all standing in the way of the younger generation from finding places to live. Private landlords can be unwilling to rent to younger people and that there was very little accommodation that was available at or near the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) shared accommodation rate (SAR).
James Murray said London had to do better on this issue: “If people are walking by developments and they are not seeing truly affordable housing, that’s how we lose their good will.”
Young people are responding to the challenges in a number of ways, such as couch surfing and living in expensive shared accommodation, but for some participants the pressures result in homelessness.
“There is a social implication of young people not having access to affordable housing,” said the Moat CEO.
Unsuitable housing has had a deleterious effect on their health and wellbeing, particularly those in more precarious situations.
Ms Austerberry warned: “If we fail to help them, the consequence will be more homeless young people and a disenfranchised generation. A safe and affordable home is key to social mobility, successful local economies and a healthy society”.
“The Prime Minister has recognised that housing is a part of the reason she did so badly during the General Election,” said John Healey.
“Seven years of failure to come up with a plan, is a big reason why under 45s are flocking to Labour.”