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NHF calls on Government to build more social housing and lift children out of poverty

Posted on 08 February 2019

New research by the National Housing Federation (NHF) has revealed that there are now an estimated 1.3 million children living in poverty in privately rented homes in England, an increase of 69% since 2008 despite 71% of their families being in work.

High property prices and a shrinking proportion of social housing mean that the number of families living in privately rented homes which they cannot afford has increased, and this is pushing them into poverty. Since 2012, families living in private rented homes have outnumbered families in social housing. 

Support worker and Hyde resident, Melanie Gower and her family lived in privately rented accommodation in Maidstone for more than six years. After getting divorced she became a single mother of two children and juggled four jobs to pay the bills.  Despite struggling, she was refused social housing because she worked and sometimes survived on £10 per week.  After getting into debt and not being able to pay her bills, Melanie qualified for social housing and is now saving £500 in rent, meaning she has more money to live and no longer relies on friends and loans for essentials. 

“Moving into my Hyde home has been like winning the lottery. I have struggled for five years living in private rent just to feed and clothe my family, but moving into social housing has meant my rent has almost halved. I can now start paying off my debts and even treat my two girls occasionally.  It’s going to take us another three to four years to get out of debt, but I know we can do it”. 

The National Housing Federation is calling for urgent support from government to build more social housing to help lift children out of poverty. Their report shows that by moving into social housing, typically 51% of market rent, households in poverty would be around £3,172 a year better off - more than a year’s worth of food for an average household. 

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said: “It is a disgrace that in one of the wealthiest countries in the world we cannot provide our children with a secure and affordable home. 

It's so obvious that we need to be building more social housing and the government has a duty to our children to invest in this. This means increasing funding for social housing and urgently reforming the way that land is sold in this country. We will only be able to build desperately needed social homes for children living in poverty if housing associations have access to land instead of the current situation where they are forced to bid directly against private developers who make millions from luxury properties.”

The report reveals that around 250,000 of children would not be living in poverty if they had access to social housing, and a further 500,000 children would be better off in social housing with their families able to keep more of their income.

The government would also save around £1.8 billion of taxpayers’ money each year in housing benefit payments.

The National Housing Federation is calling on the Government to:

  • Provide more direct funding for social housing, particularly for family homes which are more expensive to build.
  • Reform of the way that land is sold, so that housing associations building social housing are no longer priced out by luxury developers who stand to make millions in profit.

According to figures from the National Housing Federation and Crisis published this year, England needs to build 90,000 social homes a year to make up for the critical shortage. Last year only 6,463 were built. 

Hyde Director of Communications Carol Jones said: “We support the NHF report which reveals the government would save £1.8bn in housing benefit, echoing our own Value to Society report outlining the case for more social housing to save money for society as a whole”.

Full NHF report