Social Housing myths debunked

Friday, 4 October 2013

There is an awful level of misunderstanding when it comes to Social Housing among those who happen to not live in it with many pernicious myths and propaganda being fed to the public through politicians and media.

In all honesty a lot of the time it rather stinks of sour grapes.  'Why should they get cheap rent when we're paying x amount for a smaller house!' They being whom exactly? If an unemployed person happens to be in social housing, they're undeserving scrounging scum getting everything for nothing.  If an employed person happens to live in social housing then they should be evicted as they're earning and clearly don't need cheap housing.  So who exactly can live in social houses without having proverbial stones thrown?  Surely the problem isn't the people in social housing but rather the soaring and often unjustified increase in the private renting sector and the abundance of over-borrowing of home owners resulting in wage devouring sky high mortgages? 

 Why shouldn't people live in social housing if they can?  Why should their entitlement to stay in their home once they live there be dependent on circumstances?  A tenant is a tenant regardless of how much rent they pay or to whom they pay it to. What if one was to say if your household income drops or better still it fails to increase, your mortgage should be terminated and you should be forced to move?

Who's more deserving of social housing, the job seeker or the family of two working parents?
There's cries out there that social housing tenants should be paying more, yet where are the cries that private sector should be charging less and be more regulated?

Virtually anyone, yes even you and you and you at the back there too, can apply for social housing.  Really.  Granted it may take you many years to actually get a home as rightfully so those more in need are of a higher priority yet you can still apply.

There seems to be some absurd notion that one simply requests a home and then walk straight into a beautiful desirable property.  Most times you get three chances.  If you're lucky enough to win the social housing weekly lottery of applying for properties you can only turn down three properties before being booted off or relegated to the bottom of the list.

If you genuinely need somewhere to live, you have to accept what you're given regardless of how undesirable the area is because lets be honest, the majority of the time it's only the shit holes that become available.  There's no weekends filled with viewing properties of your choosing as you exclaim on the size of the kitchen and how airy the bedrooms are and whether the garden is big enough whilst you weigh up the ofsted reports of the local schools.

More likely after spending months or even years applying every week at the crack of dawn for any old hovel that is remotely local you finally get told you can view it.  When you arrive, especially in my local area, you get to see a stripped bare empty property with metal boards on the windows and doors and you literally have to say yes or no there and then.  You move in and there is no flooring other than in the bathroom and kitchen, no decor and no carpet.  You're supposed to magically conjure these up, some mean feat if you're unfortunate enough to be on benefits though some do get a £50 voucher to decorate the whole house with (yummy.... magnolia!)

These properties are supposed to adhere to the local housings strict 'lettable standards' before you move in.  They don't.  It will often take many months of incessant chasing to get them to do what they should have done before you moved in.

Regardless of how much rent is, tenants are still paying rent for the property and for the service of said property.  Service which is often lacking.  Severely.  Take for instance a boiler breaking in winter of a family home with young children classing it as urgent yet it took one of the tenants to threaten to fix it themselves for someone to magically appear and fix it properly.  Never mind the fact it was the housings own workmen who caused it to not be working earlier that day.  Or how about the black mold and leaking windows in a family of asthmatics, say one of those was an infant who having been rushed to hospital on several occasions was told by medical professionals that this would be exacerbating it and yet it still took months to even get some of the so-called urgent work carried out an several formal complaints to even get that far.  The rest of the work over a year later still hasn't been completed.  Then there's the family home with young children and an unsafe wall outside that took over  a year to get repaired.  There's also the case of a family with an unusable garden of rocks, buried trash, mud, 5ft high nettles, broken walls that should have been sorted before they moved in yet took 18 months of complaints and chasing after they moved in to finally get remotely sorted.  Yet another prime example, a hotch potch abomination of a makeshift fence gets blown completely over in the wind, the housing team eventually turn up and in their words erect a temporary fence that several weeks later suddenly transpires is now miraculously supposed to be a permanent one. One more, what about the family that were left with no floor in their bathroom and possible asbestos? Where is the service here?  Are social tenants lesser tenants? Is their rent monopoly money? Yet those right wing orientated would still increase their rent despite the lacking service.  Because obviously that's fair.

So lets dispel a few of the most common myths regarding social housing in the UK:

It's a disgrace that young people go straight on the housing list as soon as they finish school and end up with their own flat in no time.

There is no age bias in gaining council housing.  Generally young people only need a one bedroom flat, these types of properties have a higher turnover rate of occupants so thus more readily available.  Its not their age that has the advantage here, it's merely the type of property they need.

All these young girls purposefully getting pregnant just to jump the queue and get a council house.

Do you genuinely believe this utterly preposterous myth? really? Being pregnant doesn't get you any special treatment when it comes to getting social housing. If she is genuinely homeless, she will be entitled to temporary accommodation i.e a hostel.  Yes, many of which are incredibly grim places for anyone let alone a young pregnant woman.  Until recently, once she was in temporary accommodation she would be put on the waiting list for social housing.  Once she got offered one, she would have to accept it regardless of suitability. Should she refuse it she'd be thrown out of temporary accommodation yet people on the housing list who weren't homeless could turn properties down thus resulting in many homeless families being in houses that the rest of the waiting list had already turned down and quite frankly didn't want.  See, she's really jumping the queue here with specialist treatment.

So in reality, lets just say a woman somehow managed to get pregnant and appear unintentionally homeless she'd be subjected to many weeks in a hostel followed by months and months in temporary accommodation to eventually end up with a one time only offer of a council house or flat that everyone else on the list had already turned down that she cannot refuse.  Seriously people, do you really think this is an ordeal someone people would purposefully but themselves through, especially when young and pregnant?  Oh dear, do wake up people.

Since last year, councils can now place people in private rented accommodation so homeless people let alone pregnant young ones and the housing list have no link whatsoever.

What about all those bloody immigrants who come over and get all the social housing?

Yes really, what about them indeed seeing as this statement is actually a complete fallacy.  Grow a pair will you and stop believe everything the BNP spout.  The majority of new migrants are actually unable to apply for social housing, they're simply not allowed and thus have to rent privately.  Long term migrants can apply however, they're treated exactly the same as everyone else on the housing list no special treatment and no priority.

It would appear that this myth would have you believe that the majority of social housing is being occupied by migrants yet the actual figure from last year? 9%. Yes just 9 percent of social lettings in 2012 went to none UK citizens and of this 9% over 50% of them were EU citizens.

Perhaps you were actually referring to asylum seekers?  You know, asylum seekers who are actually (despite popular belief) not entitled to any benefits whatsoever, no social housing, no homelessness aid and no welfare financial assistance.  Let me run that by you again, they get nothing.  Zip.  Nada.   It's just more ridiculous propaganda to incite hatred through false information.

So following on from the mention of benefits... let's tackle this old chestnut:

Housing benefit all goes to the unemployed, you know, the work-shy scroungers.

So the no brainer here is that yes, the unemployed do indeed get housing benefit seeing as their £71.70 a week is supposed to pay for all their food, clothing, insurance, telephone, gas, electric, bus fares etc   However, did you know that in 2012, out of all the new claims for housing benefit, 90% of those were from people in employment? Yes, working people.  Yet another glaringly obvious indication that the national minimum wage is insubstantial and backs the need for a living wage. Overall, out of total housing benefit claimants around 25% of them are actually retired, disabled or carers.  But of course it's infinitely more acceptable to just assume and then accept the assumption that it's all down to those pesky unemployed.

So saving the best till last, lets end with another absolute pearl...

All our hard earned wages get taxed to pay for and subsidise social housing.

Nice try but, no.  Seriously.  Just no.  Just think about it, when were the majority of council houses built? decades ago.  The cost of building them has been recouped many times over from the rent council tenants pay.  Council housing is actually, wait for it, a public asset.  So much so that it provides councils with far more money then it ever costs in maintenance and repairs.  Yup.  The councils make a profit from renting out council houses so much so that the government up until 2012 took a healthy £200-million pound slice of profit pie from it every year, because social housing makes money.

If you're that desperate to live on  a council estate and begrudge those that already do, by all means, get your name down but be clear about the myths from the truths and remember many people are in social housing because they simply can't afford to live anywhere else.  Oh and they're also not to blame for the shortage but hey, that's a whole other rant.


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