Our lack of social housing is failing those in desperate need

Our lack of social housing is failing those in desperate need

At Shelter, we see many people who’ve had bad experiences renting privately, but Tom’s experiences are exceptionally bad. First, his landlord blocked off access to the boiler and left the thermostat set so low that the heating wouldn’t come on unless it was freezing cold. Then he started coming to the property on a daily basis, going into his tenants’ rooms without their permission.

Things got worse when there was a gas leak in the property. When Tom informed his landlord, he tried to evict him, put all of Tom’s possessions in a shed and changed the locks. This would be hard for anyone to go through, but for Tom it was especially difficult as he takes medication for anxiety and agoraphobia.

Stories like Tom’s are too common. And he doesn’t have any choice but to rent privately, because there’s no social housing available for single men like him. There isn’t enough social housing for all the families who need it, so single people like Tom just aren’t a priority.

You can hear Tom talk about this in his own words here:

Private renting isn’t working out for Kimberley either. She has two sons and a severely disabled 15-year-old daughter, Sasha, who’s had 14 different homes in her life because they keep getting evicted through no fault of their own. One landlord evicted Kimberley and her family after just four months because they wanted to sell the property.

There are very few privately rented properties suitable for Kimberley’s family. Sasha’s disabilities make stairs dangerous for her, and many landlords refuse to accept tenants who are claiming housing benefit, which further limits where they can live.

Kimberley’s family is stuck struggling in the private rented sector because there isn’t any social housing that suits their needs. Her eldest son has begged not to have to move schools again, so Kimberley needs a place that’s both suitable for Sasha and near to his school. But there just isn’t anything in the area for them.

Kimberley tells her story below:

The reason there isn’t enough social housing to make single people like Tom eligible, or to fulfil the needs of families like Kimberley’s, is that in our country we just haven’t invested enough in social housing for decades.

The graph below shows how the amount of new social housing has actually declined over the last few decades:

House building in England

We believe that social housing has a vital role to play in helping people whose needs aren’t being met by private renting. That’s why we have a vision to transform social housing and build enough to provide a safety net for those who really need it.

Social housing should be there for everyone who is priced out and struggling. People like Tom, who are dealing with nightmare landlords, deserve a better alternative. But there just isn’t enough social housing to make single people like Tom a priority right now.

Social housing should be there for families like Kimberley’s. Families that have complex needs and can’t find a suitable home that lets them put down roots. You can see how this lack of social housing has affected Tom and Kimberley directly below:

Together we can put pressure on politicians to build the social homes we so desperately need. If everyone speaks up and makes their voice heard, we can make sure the government takes action. People like Tom and Kimberley shouldn’t have to live in expensive and unstable private rented accommodation.