Moving to a new house is one of the most stressful things a family can do. For Lucie, who has had to move seven times in the last 11 years, the upheaval has been a regular feature of family life.
The cost of all this moving has been high, both financially and in terms of disruption for her and her children. ‘It’s been up and down for years. I think I’ve had seven properties, and out of those landlords, four of them sold their property. The longest that I’ve been in any property is two and a half years.’ Lucie said.
Lucie works full time as a welfare case officer for a charity and lives in Luton with her two children, aged 11 and six. She has tried her best to minimise the effects of frequently moving on her children. ‘I’ve always tried to stay in the same area and keep my daughter in the same school. Because I’ve kept everything else stable, it hasn’t affected my children too badly’ she said.
Moving is tough for adults, but it’s harder on children. Our research shows that frequently moving can affect a children’s performance at school and their behaviour. Our report found that not having a permanent home has a massive impact on children’s ability to successfully participate in school lessons and build relationships.
Despite her efforts there has been some repercussions for her children, as well as the financial costs of deposits and letting agent fees.
‘It’s not fair to expect people and their children to hop about from home to home finding deposits moving costs and agent fees each time.’
Social housing would have offered extra help to struggling families like Lucie’s. ‘I think I’d probably be in a position now where I’d be ready to buy my own property, and that social housing could have gone back to someone else who needed it,’ she said.
Lucie has been on the social housing waiting list for eight years. Despite this she has not come close to getting a home. ‘I just didn’t realise how long I would be waiting on the housing list,’ Lucie said. There are currently over one million families on the waiting list for social housing in England.
In 2017 only 290,000 social homes became available, meaning there is a massive shortage and families like Lucie’s can’t get the stable accommodation they need. Her experience is not unusual. Shelter’s housing advisers, in our 11 hubs across England, regularly speak to people who are stuck on the waiting list. In areas of high demand for social housing, such as London, people have been waiting 18 years for a home.
Social housing is allocated based on need. Every council has a different system, but generally each family applying for a home is given points to determine how great their need is. More points are likely to be allocated to families that are homeless, living in overcrowded conditions, or have a medical condition made worse by where they live. Despite having two children sharing a room, Lucie didn’t get a home allocated. She then had to move to three-bed property, which caused her to lose points.
‘I ended up giving up and moving to a three-bedroom house, because my daughter is just too old now at 11 to share a room with her brother,’ she said. This means they weren’t living in overcrowded housing any longer and they lost points. Now getting a social housing property seems a distant prospect to Lucie.
Social housing can be a lifeline to families struggling in private rented accommodation, but just 6,000 were built in the last year. Without enough social housing for those who need it, problems from homelessness to personal debt are getting worse. We need desperately to build more social housing to help people like Lucie and her family who are stuck on the waiting list and are unable to find a suitable, stable home.
A family should not have to move seven times in 11 years, which is why we are fighting to get more social housing built for families like Lucie’s. Social housing can be a lifeline to families struggling in private rented accommodation. Lucie said: ‘Just that little bit of stability and financial reassurance for me and my children would have made a big difference. But it didn’t work out like that.’