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Right to Housing

Comment 23rd July 2010

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

Here are some suggestions to alleviate the growing housing crisis in this country:

1. Landlords/Estate agents must accept benefit claimants if they can pay the required deposits and monthly rent and are of good character/credit.

2. If Councils/Housing Associations are unable to house a person/family within a given period (i.e. 18 months or 2 years) then applicants who have waited this long should be given the necessary monies to pay the required deposit, rent in advance, agents fees of private rental. It can be very difficult for people on low incomes to come up with this money aswell as pay for furniture, tv license, and all the other necessary costs of setting up home.

3. Ensure that the Local Housing Allowance rate does actually reflect the average cost of private rental in a given area. There are some areas where it seriously falls short of this, which means that people either have to apply for social housing or move to another area away from family and friends.

4. Revise social housing allocations to ensure that properties are allocated on a time-waiting basis aswell as on a needs basis. For example, 70% of available properties could be allocated to those in greatest need and 30% to those who have been waiting longest. As the system stands now, many people (i.e. single childless people) are virtually perpetually at the bottom of the list regardless of how long they have been waiting. Even if only 1 in 4 properties were given to the person waiting longest, those at the bottom of the list would eventually move up.

5. If it isn't obvious, build more social housing! Over the past 30 years so many council properties have been bought (right-to-buy) but have not been replaced with new stock. This has led to a serious shortage in social housing.

6. Right-to-buy has its merits, but also its problems. Sold stock should be replaced. If it cannot be in a given area, due to financial constraints of council/association or lack of land, then right-to-buy should be restricted in that area.

Why does this matter?

Lack of affordable housing is a serious problem in this country. It needs to be addressed, and soon. Many people are without suitable accommodation; others are struggling financially because the property exceeds their affordability or they will not claim housing benefit due to discrimination by landlords; others are waiting in vain for social housing because allocations are generally made on a needs basis not a time-waiting basis, which means that single parents will always jump ahead of single people. There needs to be practicality and fairness in addressing 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 in a reasonable amount of time.

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