Grantham Journal Column: Our future generation is at stake
In a bid to address issues identified, briefing sessions on housing in the East Midlands Council and South Kesteven District Council are taking place. Many in our communities reliant on social housing will shortly face a significantly more challenging future when it comes to security of their home. Affordability and availability are key concerns. There is a general shortage of both privately owned and rented homes. The reliance on the private sector to deliver housing is not working. In our district, even where the council has identified land for builders to use, development targets have not been met. There is a significant gap in the Government’s Housing Policy which emphasises home ownership. However, UK house prices and income levels mean at least a quarter of our population cannot afford to own their own home. Government policies are affecting those already living in, or, providing social housing. The Government is reducing incentives to provide social housing and has capped rents landlords can charge. As overheads increase, this puts financial strain on social housing providers. Council tenants are to see rent rises that will bring their costs in line with the private rented sector and secure tenancy for life is to be removed. This not only affects tenants but puts a huge burden on the council who will have to administer changes to tenancy agreements. The sale of council homes also outstrips the ability of local authorities to build replacement homes. New housing standards and regulations anticipated, though welcome, are likely to result in a significant loss of private rented housing accommodation as both public and private landlords potentially face large housing improvement bills and new rent caps. Other changes also affect tenants.
In a bid to reduce welfare costs the Government reduced housing benefit and introduced the bedroom tax. Benefit cap cuts are planned this autumn affecting households with unemployed or sick people. The family cap will drop from £500 to £350 a week.
A number of charities anticipate increases in homelessness. A survey reported in Inside housing showed that many housing associations and landlords are thinking twice about offering a home to residents in receipt of benefits and many are choosing not to renew tenancy agreements in anticipation of future cuts. Working families are also affected by housing shortages and will see a change to working family tax credit with increases fixed at 1 per cent, a cut in real terms against other household bills. There is also a shortage of specialist homes for vulnerable people whose behaviour can affect whole communities. People seeking support may approach SKDC for a discretionary housing payment. New initiatives are being considered but ultimately a significant investment by the Government is required. With both older and younger people trapped in inappropriate housing our future generation is at stake.