By Modupe Daramola
A home should be a warm and safe sanctuary for a family to enjoy private time together. However, in the UK, homes are treated as investments which has led to a massive privatization of social housing. This is a commodification of the one of the most basic human rights a person has. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, in her opinion piece, states that a home has no longer become a right to which every human is entitled to but instead a symbol of your position in the social hierarchy. Council and social houses are becoming unaffordable with more than 1.15 million families currently on the waiting list, according to studies conducted last year.
The most important issue facing the social housing network is a lack of houses. Although a very obvious statement to make, the severity of the issue means that it cannot be downplayed. There have been several issues concerning affordability and availability of social houses and houses provided by housing associations.
Overcrowding, evictions, and homelessness is increasing
Social housing is supposed to give people a cheaper place to rent rather than privately rented homes and usually for long term residency. Much of the social housing stock has shrunk due to the council tenants exercising their right to buy meaning that local authorities are no longer the dominant social landlords.
Duncan Bowie, in his book ‘Radical Solutions to the Housing Supply Crisis’,stated that the right to buy scheme for council tenants demonstrated the government’s underperformance in relation to the objective of replacing the homes sold by the ones bought 1:1. This has caused a severe issue social housing availability. The acute shortage of housing, particularly social and affordable housing, has led to increasing rent and housing prices across the nation causing an affordability crisis. As a result, there has been an increase in overcrowding, evictions, rent arrears and homelessness.
Many benefits, like the working age benefit, have remained frozen for four years while the rents in England continue to rise; this is made worse by many tenants not having an income that is able to keep pace with the rate of inflation. Continued rising inflation means that soon even houses by the housing associations will become unaffordable.
However, Parliament has recently enacted a new legislation, The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. This built upon the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 by adding section 9A which outlines how the landlord must make sure that the property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of, and throughout, the tenancy.
A recent and painful example of the deterioration of social housing into a profit driven system is the Grenfell Tower fire. The fire stands testament to the willful neglect of social homes which, as Rowan Moore wrote, exposes the current state of social housing: lack of accessibility, affordability, and declining quality of the houses provided.
Photo: Homoatrox via Wikimedia Commons