Poverty: Home is Where the Start Is By Kelly Grehan

Home, the place you should feel the most comfortable and the most secure has become the very thing which enslaves many Brits to poverty.

Around 14 million people in the UK live in poverty in the UK (according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) which is over one in five of the population.

At least 8 million of them live in families where at least one person is in work.  

How has it happened that a continued rise in employment is no longer reducing poverty?  

Whilst the reasons are multiple and doubtless include the rise in zeros hours contracts, state support for low-income families through benefits and tax credits falling in real terms and stagnant wages, housing must now be seen in terms of the devastating impact it has on so many. 

 The chances of owning your own home have halved in the last 20 years.  For those on middle income jobs, which once guaranteed a good standard of living the chances of owning a house is now diminished.  

Just 27% of 25 to 35 year olds in this bracket now on the property ladder, which is unsurprising when you consider that over the past 20 years, average house prices have grown about seven times faster than the average incomes of young adults (according to the IFS). Yet average house prices have increased by 152% whereas wages for 25- to 34-year-olds have only risen by 22% in real terms over the same period.

 

This means that many people who would have been home owners in the generation before theirs are now at the mercy of the private rented sector.

Their income should have meant they could comfortably afford the mortgage on an average property in an average area, but instead rising rents and the costs of deposits and upfront rents leave many struggling to manage.  

Unsurprisingly if those on good incomes struggle to afford the roof over their head then for those on low incomes the situation is even worse.  

47% of working-age adults on low incomes spend more than a third of their income (including Housing Benefit) on housing costs.

More than a third of working-age adults receiving Housing Benefit now have to top it up out of their other income to cover their rent.  

Let us not forget that many people on low incomes do important jobs like health care assistants and teaching assistants. 

Right to Buy has left pressure on the UK’s limited and often antiquated housing stock which simply means the social housing system can not operate in any way which works.  

Pressure on local authority housing lists means many desperate families  are stuck in temporary accommodation which radically undermines family life.  It also means many people with specific needs such as mobility and disability issues are in properties completely unsuitable for them which further impacts their health and ability to access services – for example there are people whose inability to get a wheelchair through their doorways effectively leaves them trapped in one room – isolated from any groups or activities outside the property.

As public housing stocks has fallen public housing has become almost synonymous for some with problem families; stigmatising children and adults alike and playing into a dangerous ‘us-and-them’ mentality.  

At the same time lack of access to the limited housing stock leads to raised tensions in communities as people instinctively resent those fortunate enough to be allocated a property.  

None of this is good for communities.

As demand outstrips supply; landlords are able to be less and less responsible, and as the costs of moving are always with the tenant, people are increasingly afraid to complain about the poor standards or their home.  

From the taxpayers point of view, this causes further costs as poor quality housing damages health, through for example more accidents and asthma being caused by exposure to damp environments. Furthermore; people with mental health conditions are one and a half times more likely to live in rented housing than the general population.

 Children who have lived in temporary accommodation for over a year are three times as likely to have a mental health condition than other children, including depression and anxiety.  

This might be because they lack space to do homework or have friends over.

10% of mothers who lived in acutely bad housing were clinically depressed, further impacting on family life. 

Rough sleeping had almost been eradicated by the Labour government of 1997-2010. However since the election of 2010 there has been a catastrophic rise of 169% in the number of rough sleepers with an estimated 4,751 people sleeping outside overnight in 2017.

 

While rough sleepers are the ultimate victims of the UKs crazy housing systems, other types of homelessness have also risen: homelessness among people with mental and physical health problems has increased by around 75% since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, and there has been a similar rise in the number of families with dependent children who are classed as homeless.  

Every person in this situation is suffering unimaginable amounts of stress.

Even the houses we are buying are not seeing occupants have a better standard of living than their previous generations.

New homes are now 20% smaller than those built in the 1970s, whilst this means raised bigger profits for developers, as kitchens and living rooms get smaller family life is inevitably negatively impacted.

 In short every single part of our housing system is dysfunctional and a failure to fix it means more and more people are dragged into a poorer standard of living which, in short means there is more misery and more suffering.

 How long are we going to let this madness continue?  

 

Isn’t It Time We Made Homes Fit For Human Habitation? By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

The second reading of Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill is on January 19th 2018.

We can hardly believe that, in the 6th richest country in the world, in 2018 it is necessary for such a bill to be raised.  

It is astonishing that such a protection is not already in existence for tenants. Tenants have no avenue for redress or means of compelling landlords to make repairs or even secure the safety of the property.

The Bill would empower tenants by giving them the right to take their landlord to court if they fail to take action to resolve a problem.

There are currently around one million rented homes with hazards that pose a serious risk to health and safety. This affects over 2.5 million people.

You might think that this lapse in the law is an oversight that just needs to be rectified. But you would be mistaken.

A version of the Bill was first introduced by Karen Buck in 2015 and was ‘talked out’. A version of the Bill was also proposed as an amendment to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and was voted down by the government. Including the 87 Tory MPs who are landlords.  Their argument was that such legislation would burden upon landlords and discourage people from renting out homes.

How did we get in the situation we are in today, one might ask.

Many years of under funding and de regulation of the housing market we could argue.

What could be a greater burden for any person than trying to live in a ‘home’ unfit for human habitation, you might wonder.

Data from the English Housing Survey 2017 found that Almost a third (29 per cent) of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet the national Decent Homes Standard; meaning they either contain safety hazards or do not have acceptable kitchen and bathroom facilities or adequate heating

Poor housing impacts on children by making them 25% more at risk of ill health or disability, including raised risk of meningitis or asthma and a greater chance of mental health issues.

They are also more likely to miss school through illness.  Almost one million privately rented homes are deemed to be in a state of “substantial disrepair”, while 442,000 have damp in one of more rooms.

Poor housing also places a greater burden on other services and affects society as a whole, not just children.

Substantially more working age adults living in bad housing report fair, bad or very bad general health (26%) than those living in good housing (17%), with adults in bad housing 26% more likely to report low mental health compared with those living in good housing.

Those living in bad housing are almost twice as likely to have their sleep disturbed by respiratory problems at least once a month.

The association between living in bad housing and health problems is particularly acute among those above retirement age; with Pensioners in bad housing a third more likely to have fair, bad or very bad health compared with those in good housing (58% vs 38%).

Almost a fifth (19%) suffer from low mental health compared with 11% in good housing.

Almost twice as many pensioners living in bad housing suffer from wheezing in the absence of a cold, compared with those in good housing.

Not only is this unacceptable and immoral in this day and age but it also undoubtedly places more burden on the cash strapped NHS, including mental health services and schools that are already under so much pressure.

So what can we do about this?

We welcome the second reading of the bill and hope that this can proceed to the next stage. MPs will have a vote on this issue and we the people can apply pressure on our local MPs to vote the right way.

You can find who your local MP is and and how to contact them by clicking on the link below.

http://www.ukpolitical.info/YouandyourMP.htm

The above is taken from Natcen’s 2013 report on People in bad housing.