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Fair Access to Social Housing

Comment 3rd August 2010

It is the right of every citizen to have access to affordable housing. However, due to the mismanagement of social housing and the continued discrimination of landlords/estate agents against benefit claimants, this is not the case.

Here are some suggestions to alleviate this growing crisis in our country.

1. Landlords/Estate Agents must accept benefit claimants if they can pay the necessary deposit/fees and are of good character/credit.

2. If a Council/Association cannot house an applicant after a given time (i.e 18 months or 2 years) then the applicant should be given the necessary monies to rent privately. This should include 1 months rent in advance (LHA equivalent), 1 months deposit (LHA equivalent), administration cost (standard of the area). It can be difficult for those on low-incomes to raise this money as well as buy furniture, tv licence, and all the other necessary costs of setting up home. While this may seem like a large payout sum, it is much less than what the individual would have received had they been allocated a property within 12 months of their application, or if they had friends/family who could pay these costs for them to go into the rental sector earlier.

3. Ensure that Local Housing Allowance rates do reflect the actual cost of private rent in a given area. In some areas the rate seriously falls short, which means that people either have to apply for social housing or move to another area of the country away from family and friends.

4. Revise Social Housing Allocations. At present, allocations are generally made on a needs basis rather than a time-waiting basis. This means that many people, especially single people, are perpetually at the bottom of the list. Allocations should be split between needs basis and time-waiting i.e. 70% of allocations made on a needs basis and 30% on a time-waiting basis. Even if only 1 in 5 properties were allocated on a time-waiting basis, then those at the bottom of the list would eventually move up.

5. Right to buy has its merits but also problems. Sold stock should be replaced. If it cannot be, due to financial constraints on the Council/Association or lack of land, then right-to-buy should be restricted in that area.

6. Build more social housing!

Why does this matter?

There is a serious housing crisis in this country. It needs to be addressed, and soon. Many people are in unsuitable accommodation; others are struggling financially as they cannot afford their private rent or will not claim housing benefit because of the prejudice of landlords/estate agents; others are waiting in vain for social housing. There is discrimination against benefit claimants that is contrary to fundamental human rights; lack of sufficient help for benefit claimants who have been waiting a long time for social housing to get into private rental; exploitation of housing stock by landlords; shortfalls in LHA rate and actual cost of rent; diminishing social housing stock by failure to replace those bought on right-to-buy; and unfairness in allocation of social housing which means, for example, that single parents will always jump ahead of single people. There needs to be practicality and fairness in dealing with this crisis so that everyone who is entitled to social housing, and no one knows when that may be them, can gain access to affordable housing within a reasonable time.


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