The Benefits of Social Housing To Young, Poor Households

The interim findings of an ESRC and Public Policy Institute for Wales-funded project on housing schemes and poverty alleviation show that becoming a tenant in social housing is likely to have positive impacts on the gross income, housing quality and financial prospects of young, poor households, although whether these benefits last for the long term is unproven. The study, ‘The role of housing and housing providers in tackling poverty experienced by young people in the UK‘, is being led by Professor Michael Oxley and Anna Clarke at the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research.

The research, which began in 2014 and is due to conclude at the end of 2016, has found that in England, poor, young (16 – 25), single person households are most likely to be tenants in social housing; 71 per cent as compared to 26 per cent of all young, single person households. Social housing schemes routinely address poverty-related issues, including financial exclusion, debt or unemployment. Schemes run activities designed to improve personal skills, employability, confidence and the maintenance of independent living, including through supporting access to the private rented sector.

Concerns have been raised by commentators on housing, including the Local Government Association and Joseph Rowntree Foundation regarding shifts in the definitions of ‘affordable’ housing by Government, the extension of the Right-to Buy to Housing Association tenants and changes in developers’ obligations to provide ‘affordable’ homes in housing developments. Last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour/ Co-operative MP for York Central, Rachael Maskell, asked the Prime Minister why a 2,500 home development in central York was proceeding without a single home for social rent. In response the Prime Minister replied that this was an issue for ‘York City Council and the Local Plan’. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published analysis estimating that only three per cent of those entering social housing for rent could afford ‘starter homes’ or shared ownership properties instead.

Taken together with these wider concerns, the interim findings from the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Policy Research raise important questions about the wider benefits for social housing tenants that may be lost if the stock of social housing in the UK is eroded, as it seems Government policy may do.

In June and July 2016, the RGS-IBG will examine issues related to housing in the UK with a series of events for both public and policy audiences. Find out more about our 21st Century Challenges: Policy Forum programme and our events for the public.

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