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Housing

Why we need to create decent and affordable homes for all

At Big Issue we believe in taking measures to prevent us falling back into the deep holes we’re in now. That’s why we’ve launched the Big Futures campaign calling for decent and affordable homes for all

The UK has been in a housing crisis for decades but affordable homes have never been harder to find.

Homes have been pushed out of reach for many in 2022 as house prices and rents have reached record highs. Halifax, the largest mortgage lender in the country, reported that the standard average house price in the UK in September was £293,835 – more than £25,000 higher than the year before.

With interest rates rising to combat inflation, mortgages are becoming more costly. Experts predict a knock-on impact on the UK’s private rental market already struggling to cope with demand.

Tenants face rising rents to cover inflated mortgages, competing with people who have had to shelve plans to get on the housing ladder. All that comes at a time when the rising cost of living is hitting household incomes.

Renters are more likely to struggle with bills. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed 60 per cent of renters reported difficulty affording energy bills compared to 43 per cent of people with a mortgage.

Similarly, 39 per cent of renters said they struggled to pay rent while 23 per cent of people with a mortgage said they had difficulties paying their housing costs.

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There was little help in chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement. While social housing tenants saw rents capped at 7 per cent for next year, there was no support announced for private renters facing record rents due to huge demand for affordable homes.

Nor was there any commitment to invest big in building the homes Britain’s needs – another missed opportunity to deal with the long-running crisis.

The Big Issue is launching a call to look to tomorrow. Our Big Futures call is a request for essential movement now on the biggest issues we face – on housing, on jobs and on energy and the world around us. 

We have written an open letter to the PM demanding that the government create a plan and policies to break the cycle of poverty for good. We have three demands. They are to create decent and affordable homes for all, to end the low-wage economy and invest in young people and to build a greener, sustainable future and create millions of well-paid green jobs.

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As it stands, there is simply not enough affordable housing to go around. Successive governments have failed to build enough affordable housing, particularly to replace the two million social homes lost to the Right to Buy scheme since it launched in 1980.

Boris Johnson’s government made a manifesto promise to build 300,000 homes a year but never got near to that total. His replacement as prime minister, Liz Truss, and her successor Rishi Sunak both said they would scrap house-building targets, arguing that they don’t deliver homes.

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The Home Builders Federation, Britain’s biggest builder, disagrees. HBF warned last week that the annual number of new homes delivered could drop by 100,000 per year without central targets. This would lead to an estimated £17bn reduction in economic activity.

However many homes are built each year, it’s important to ensure that they are the right kind of homes. Social rent is the most affordable type of housing, delivering rents at around 50 per cent of market rates.

The National Housing Federation has estimated that around 1.6 million households have an unmet housing need that could be solved with a social rent home. Shelter has called for 90,000 social homes to be built every year in England by 2030 to meet demand.

Overall, just over 59,000 affordable homes were delivered in England in 2021/22 but only a small proportion was for social rent. Just over 7,500 social rent homes were delivered, up by a quarter on the previous year but still far lower than the amount needed.

In fact, the amount of social rented stock in England fell by almost 10,000. Meanwhile more than one million households are on a council waiting list for a new home.

That mismatch means councils are spending huge sums on stop-gap solutions instead. The total temporary accommodation bill for all councils in England was £1.6bn in 2021/22, official figures show – a 4 per cent rise on the previous year and 61 per cent higher than five years ago.

That’s money that could be spent on working with housing associations to build more affordable homes or to identify and renovate empty homes to bring back into use.

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More than 238,000 homes in England are considered long-term empty homes. With 278,110 households assessed as homeless in the most recent annual government figures, it stands to reason that bringing some empty homes back into use could help people into a home of their own.

The standard of homes in both the social and private rented sector is also under the microscope thanks to campaigning from Kwajo Tweneboa and ITV News with new legislation to fix both is due to make its way through parliament.

Tweneboa told The Big Issue: “Everyone deserves access to a safe home in this country. When housing collapses it’s social housing we will depend on. Let’s not wait for that disaster to happen and start treating affordable and social homes with the priority it deserves and has needed for decades.”

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For too long, the housing crisis has seen thousands of Brits paying over the odds for a home or locked out of one altogether. It’s costly on a human and economic level.

Home is at the heart of everything we do. To get out of the whole financial hole the country is in and to create a positive future, people need the ability to put down roots in communities and to have a stable base from which to launch their career and improve their lives. 

That’s why we need a decent and affordable home for all.

The Big Futures campaign calls for long-term solutions to break the cycle of poverty. Join us and make your voice heard. Sign the open letter here.

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