Over the past several months I have read various letters and articles in the media regarding what our housing needs are.
There are many arguments for and against building more houses and where, but one thing that is of particular concern to me is the affordable and rented housing sector.
A lot is being said about how private landlords can charge high rents for sometimes inadequate and substandard accommodation (is this something that the government should pick up on and bring these landlords to task?).
Yet the rent charged by housing associations for social housing tenants seems to be left out of the debate.
I know for a fact that the new houses that have been built for local housing associations in the Horsham District have rents of between £700 to just under £1,000 per month, depending on the size of the accommodation.
As a comparison, someone I know is renting from a private landlord on the new Wickhurst Green estate at Broadbridge Heath and is paying a monthly rent in the £900 - £1,000 bracket, so not quite a huge difference between the private and so-called ‘affordable’ social renting.
The housing association rents are fixed under the Fair Rents Act, but still a lot of tenants find that they have to claim housing benefit to meet the costs, of which there is a rent rise of £3 to £5 per month each year.
Many tenants either renting from private landlords or from housing associations have to claim housing benefit in order to pay their rents, whether they are in work or not. I think the term affordable is highly misconstrued and needs to be addressed.
In the street where I live, I know of at least half dozen households that still have children in their 20s and 30s living at home because they cannot afford to leave and make their own life, in some cases they have left home for a while but have found it so difficult to cope with the cost of living that they have returned back to the family home.
Gone are the days when school leavers could choose their profession and have the security of a ‘job for life’ so they could move away from home and maybe own their own home.
Whereas these days the employment situation is not so secure, for any age group, yet the pressure to own your own home is much more significant – from the Government, media and also increasingly from the general public as evidenced in the amount of discrimination regarding people who cannot afford to own their own home.
With the government bringing in more of the Right to Buy surely this only adds to the current housing crisis, with even more having to be built.
Is it really a must to buy your own home? Surely just to have a roof over your head, rented or not, is more of a priority? The pre-Thatcher years were a time of building council houses for the people and then giving them the option to buy at a later date.
Some took up this offer whilst many others were happy just to pay their rent. There was no ‘them and us’ in those days, and without pressure to own your own home. Yes, there was still a waiting list for council housing but many of my generation (born in the late fifties onwards) were offered accommodation from the council, so were able to leave the family home.
Now with the social housing there is a stigma and a ‘them and us’ attitude. Why do people assume that because someone is in ‘social housing’ that they are inferior, are out of work, have no inclination to find work and claim every benefit they can, have large families, smoke, drink, have big TVs, eat ready meals, don’t clean or have pride in their home, no parental control and instil the same attitude onto their children?
This may be the case in a very small minority of cases (as well as in private housing), yet for the majority in social housing, they work, cook, clean, take pride in their homes, yes maybe have large families in some cases (as do private home owners too), claim housing benefit to help with the rent (as do private renters) yet are still looked upon as a pariah.
Sadly the reality TV programmes these days do not help the situation in the way social housing tenants are portrayed as some kind of popular circus entertainment.
The words ‘Affordable’ and ‘Social’ housing are generally banded together and are totally misconceived.
It is time for some clarification but without the stigma attached. Some of us do not have the luxury to afford to own our own home.
So what? We are people too. The housing problem will never be solved when developers build more and more large market housing at extortionate prices (which in many areas are not required) and a smaller and smaller amount are being handed over for ‘social’ tenants. And as has been the case with some developments, the market housing hasn’t been sold.
All the time private landlords buy up market housing stock to rent out is only adding to the problem.
I fear this situation has no immediate solution and will carry on until we have a government that starts really listening to their electorate and work to find a suitable conclusion.
Stane Street Close, Codmore Hill, Pulborough
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