Advertisement - Content continues below
Housing

One in three adults in Britain ‘do not have a safe or secure home’

A new study shows ‘deep inequalities’ in the UK housing crisis caused by ‘decades of neglect’ from housing ministers.

A “decade of neglect” has pulled as many as 22 million people into the UK housing crisis, new research has revealed.

One in three adults in Britain do not have a safe or secure home, the survey of 13,000 Brits by charity Shelter showed, with “deep inequalities” meaning Black people are 70 per cent more likely to be affected by the housing crisis than white people.

The findings come as “no surprise” after a “decade of neglect and failure by ministers on housing,” said Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s shadow housing secretary.

“The pandemic has shown the deep inequalities in our housing system, with those in insecure, overcrowded homes more at risk of the health and economic impacts of the crisis including many who were previously able to keep up with their housing costs, but through no fault of their own are now in dire straits,” she added. 

“Instead of an ambitious plan to deal with the housing emergency, ministers are weakening protections for people with Covid-related rent arrears, kicking renters rights and social housing reform into the long grass, and diluting measures to build more affordable homes to rent and buy.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “It is unacceptable for people to live in unsafe accommodation,” adding that the government is “providing over £750 million this year alone to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping and investing over £12 billion in affordable housing”.

Advertisement - Content continues below
Advertisement - Content continues below

Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

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.” 

Get free training, careers advice and access to hundreds of thousands of jobs with The Big Issue’s RORA Jobs & Training

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.”

The Big Issue is offering free training and job search help to anyone who needs it with our new RORA Jobs and Training Toolkit. Sign up to receive a free three-month digital subscription to The Big Issue, access to dozens of free or discounted online training courses and the ability to search hundreds of thousands of jobs.

If you are out of work or worried about work and looking for immediate, practical advice call The Big Issue Jobs helpline on 0204 534 2810 or email RORAhelp@momentagroup.com.

Advertisement - Content continues below

Support us today

Over the last 30 years, your contributions have been vital in providing opportunities for those facing poverty by giving them a hand up, not a hand out. Support us to help thousands more. Buy a copy from your local vendor, donate or subscribe online today.

Recommended for you

Read All
Rent arrears ‘much worse than feared’ ahead of UK cost of living crisis
Housing

Rent arrears ‘much worse than feared’ ahead of UK cost of living crisis

A 'secret museum' aims to showcase the real story of homelessness during Covid
Housing

A 'secret museum' aims to showcase the real story of homelessness during Covid

More than 50 organisations call on government to prevent impending 'mass homelessness crisis'
Housing

More than 50 organisations call on government to prevent impending 'mass homelessness crisis'

Meet the campaigner launching the 'Uber for homelessness'
Housing

Meet the campaigner launching the 'Uber for homelessness'

Most Popular

Read All
Labour shortage: UK needs 1.1 million people to fill record job vacancies
1.

Labour shortage: UK needs 1.1 million people to fill record job vacancies

The problems with BT's £50m 888 app to protect women on their way home
2.

The problems with BT's £50m 888 app to protect women on their way home

Insulate Britain: Who are the protesters and why do they keep blocking roads?
3.

Insulate Britain: Who are the protesters and why do they keep blocking roads?

Minimum wage UK: How does Britain compare to the rest of the world?
4.

Minimum wage UK: How does Britain compare to the rest of the world?