With the Social Housing Green Paper expected soon, there’s a strong consensus that it is time for decisive action.
We’re used to hearing about the housing crisis. Most often discussion focuses on the difficulties faced by people who expected to be able to buy but can’t afford a deposit.
The collapse in rates of home-ownership is certainly concerning, not least because it raises the prospect of future generations having to keep renting through retirement, risking a rise in pensioner poverty. New Conservative think-tank Onward yesterday called for action to redress the balance between the rented sector and home-ownership.
That is one part of the picture, but there is a growing consensus that no part of the housing crisis can be seen in isolation.For poverty today, the more pressing issue is the rise in housing costs for working-age people on low incomes. Most were always unlikely to be able to afford to buy a home but used to be able to access low-cost social rented housing. That helped to prevent them being swept into hardship by the vagaries of the housing market.The IFS last week revealed how much that protection has been eroded – and the extent to which people on low incomes are locked into difficulties as a result.
Since 2002/3, average housing costs for low-income families with children have risen four times faster than costs for middle-income families. Housing costs for families with children in the poorest fifth of population have risen by nearly half (47%) in the last fifteen years. At the same time, the protection given by housing benefit has been weakened. Many low-income families find that their housing costs are no longer covered by housing benefit; housing costs not covered by housing benefit have risen by 80% for those in the poorest fifth.