Angela and her son, Kardinell were good tenants, but their lives were upended and Kardinell’s education was disrupted when they were made homeless after being evicted from their private rented home. ‘I felt like I’d let my child down,’ Angela said. ‘How do you explain to a child who’s gone to school in the morning that they’ve got nowhere to live when they come home?’
Angela and Kardinell aren’t the only ones to have had their lives put on hold by the housing emergency. A lack of stable social homes is at the heart of this crisis.
For decades, successive governments have failed to invest in social housing. Social housebuilding is at its lowest in 70 years. This has contributed to a dramatic increase in homelessness and an increased reliance on expensive private renting, which isn’t providing the homes many people need.
The result is that across the country, too many people are being held back by the lack of decent, stable and genuinely affordable social rent homes.
‘The hardest time of my life’
Homelessness, even for a short period of time, can have far reaching effects; from the toll on mental health, your job, or a child’s education. As Angela recounts ‘it was definitely the hardest time of my life… I went through emotions that I never thought I’d have… There were nights when I couldn’t sleep’.
Angela and Kardinell were homeless for 15 months, sofa-surfing with friends and not knowing where they might sleep from one night to the next. Kardinell became upset when his friends talked about their bedrooms, as he didn’t have any space of his own. ‘The feeling of being homeless… it’s the worst feeling you can ever have,’ he said.
Angela was particularly concerned about what impact a lack of stable home might have on Kardinell’s education. Without his own space there was nowhere for him to do his homework. ‘Whenever he had homework…we’d end up in a cafe, but there was lots of outside noise so it’s hard.’
And it’s not just the lack of space that’s an issue. The experience of homelessness can be incredibly unsettling, as Kardinell describes: ‘It was really difficult to do my homework because I had all these other things on my mind. I was stressed, stressed for my mum – she didn’t act like mum really, she was always angry, and sad all the time.’
‘He used to ask me “when are we going to get a house?” – that was the worst thing,’ Angela said. It’s clear that home is more than a roof over your head – it’s the stable foundation we need to build our lives.
‘The day I moved… I started crying’
We provided advice and support to Angela and Kardinell when they became homeless, and ultimately helped them to secure a social home. They were so relieved to have a place to call their own. ‘The day I moved into this house I literally jumped on the floor and started crying,’ Kardinell said. ‘The feeling and meaning of having this home is just amazing… I feel happy, I feel supported, I feel good.’
Social housing offers families like Angela’s secure long-term tenancies, with rents pegged to local incomes providing the stability and security people need to plan ahead and get on with their lives. But with 1.1 million households on the social housing waiting list, too many people are being denied this foundation.
‘I feel so genuinely thankful that we are in secure, affordable accommodation, Angela said. ‘It’s about the foundation… I don’t have to think about where I’m sleeping, where I’m eating, where I’m washing clothes, where my son is going to do his homework, or whether we are safe that night… it’s just security of having something of our own.
‘Since having a secure home, I can definitely see K’s confidence growing again, he’s got friends that knock on the door, he can have his friends over for tea, we have sleep-overs, we cook, we bake… he’s a dab hand at making pancakes,’ Angela concluded.
Last year only 6,287 social homes were built. Piecemeal schemes set up to offer alternatives, such as Help to Buy or shared ownership, have have failed to provide the genuinely affordable homes people urgently need. They don’t do anything to fill the void left by the steep decline in social rent homes.
That’s why we’re demanding that the government invests in a new generation of social homes. We need social housing so that more people like Angela and Kardinell can experience the benefits of a stable home.
Everyone should have a stable and secure home. A new generation of social homes can make this a reality. That’s why we’re calling on the government to reboot social housebuilding . Please sign our petition in support.