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More than half (54 per cent) of people with a significant disability – 1.8 million UK adults – live in poor or overcrowded housing, struggle to cover rent on their incomes or have faced discrimination when trying to secure a home, compared to 30 per cent of people without a disability.
Shelter said the survey of 13,000 people used eight criteria to determine if someone’s housing circumstances could be considered “safe and secure”, including the affordability of their home, if it is unsuitable for their needs or in need of repair, and if they have experienced discrimination because of their race, gender, disability or sexuality. Shelter partnered with YouGov to carry out the research as well as analysing the government’s latest homelessness data.
“I pay good money for this place – I can’t afford a big food shop anymore. I really have to watch how I eat,” said Krystalrose, a 27-year-old single mother who was pulled into homelessness when pregnant and lived in a hostel before moving into her current home. Up to 65 per cent of single mums – accounting for one million adults – did not have a safe or secure home compared to 37 per cent of two-parent households.
“I thought for the amount of money it was going to be a proper home. I’ve tried to make it feel like one, but it’s not. The mould has ruined my daughter’s cot and all our clothes. We’re living out of bags. “I’m asthmatic and we have both become ill because of it. It’s just been about coping. I’m on antidepressants now because of the stress.
“All I want is a home where we can feel safe and comfortable. The simple things like a wardrobe to pack your clothes away, a living room with a sofa to sit on, not having to share a bedroom. My daughter doesn’t know what that feels like. It’s like our lives can’t move forward.”
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Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed, equivalent to 11.8 million people in the population, live in homes with major damp and mould problems, or struggle to keep them warm in winter.
People earning less than £20,000 per year were 70 per cent more likely to have housing problems compared to households earning £40-£45,000 per year, meaning 4.7 million adults on low incomes did not have safe or secure homes.
Four million people said they were regularly forced to cut back on essentials such as food and heating to pay rent or mortgage costs. The same number of people reported feeling worried they could be evicted.
Nearly half (49 per cent) of bisexual people and two-fifths (40 per cent) of gay or lesbian people were impacted by the housing crisis, compared to 32 per cent of heterosexual people.
“Decades of neglect have left Britain’s housing system on its knees,” said Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter. “A safe home is everything, yet millions don’t have one. Lives are being ruined by benefit cuts, blatant discrimination and the total failure to build social homes.”
The government must ramp up house building efforts to create 90,000 good-quality new social homes each year if it is to tackle the “unaffordable, unfit, unstable and discriminatory” housing system.
“Shelter believes a safe home is a human right, but the pain and desperation our frontline staff see every day shows this is still a long way off,” Neate added.
“That’s why we are fighting for the single mum who has to put her child to bed in a room covered in mould, and the disabled man living on the twelfth floor with a broken lift. We are fighting for everyone impacted by the housing emergency – and as we emerge from the pandemic, we want the public and politicians to do the same.”
The MHCLG spokesperson said: “It is unacceptable for people to live in unsafe accommodation and that is why we have given councils stronger tools to crack down on rogue landlords, including fines of up to £30,000 and banning orders.
“We’ve also announced major reforms to support tenants, including our Charter for Social Housing Residents, that will provide greater redress for residents, better regulation and improve the quality of homes.”
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