Get pregnant to get a council house is Tory housing policy – Be careful what you wish for !!

Imagine going into a shop to buy clothes only to be told they only have Medium and Large and don’t do Small or Extra Large.  Now imagine that a 1 bed property is Small, a 2 bed is Medium, a 3 bed Large and a 4bed+ is Extra Large and there you have English social housing in stark reality and factual context.

The government department for housing (MHCLG) this week published the Statistical Data Return (SDR) figures which are the official data up to March 2020.  Two very stark facts stood out for me in this huge official data source of (a) How social housing is broken down by property size that is bedroom number, or in short the social housing SUPPLY; and (b) the local authority waiting lists that were broken down by those waiting for a 1, 2, 3 or 4 bed+ property, or in short DEMAND.  The simple chart below puts these facts side by side: –

What the chart shows is England’s social housing stock has a surfeit of 2 and 3 bed properties (when the red block exceeds the blue) and a shortage of 4 bed+ properties and a massive chronic shortfall of 1 bed properties (when the blue block soars ahead of the red.) 

If you ever thought that social housing had a purpose to meet real housing need or demand these figures reveal they have failed in spectacular fashion.  SRS landlords for decades have kept on stocking their housing shop with Medium and Large sizes when the customer demand was mostly for Small and Extra Large.

46% of all household on council waiting lists want and more importantly are only entitled to a one bed property as the bedroom tax allocates customer demand by virtue of immediate bedroom size only.  For example the newly married young couple get allocated a 1 bed property only because of the bedroom tax policy which means they need to move if they choose to have a family. 

Staying with the one bed property and looking at what this means we find 528,964 are on council waiting lists for a 1 bed general needs property.  The official data reveals councils have 383,586 1 bed general needs properties and housing associations have 473,237 for a combined SRS general needs total of 856,823. 

In addition to the 528,964 wanting a general needs SRS 1 bed property we know England has 150,000 single homeless households each year who also all need a 1 bed property to escape homelessness. This single homeless 150,000 is the yearly total or rough sleepers, those in single homeless hostels and single women in domestic abuse refuges where some one-third of all are single women without children so also need the 1 bed property to finally escape domestic abuse.

Then, another official housing dataset in the English Housing Survey published in July 2020 revealed there are 386,000 homes in England in which a single household sofa surfer lives.

529k in general needs plus 150,000 single homeless plus a further 386,000 sees over a million single households – 1,065,000 – needing a 1 bed SRS property and you begin to see the extent of the 1 bed housing crisis in England.

It means in England we can never solve single homelessness due to the acute shortage of 1 bed properties.  It means however much you roll the absurdly theoretical Housing First model in glitter (as some not so bright Sparkes do!) it cannot work in England due to the acute shortage of 1 bed properties.  You can’t operate Housing FIRST id the properties are not there to be found (and note well the Scottish Housing First service takes 149 days to find a property in either the SRS or PRS!)

It is also the reason why the resettlement model of homelessness has been failing for decades which has prompted the ridiculous Housing First model that can’t possibly work as if you can’t move single homeless persons out of hostels due to there being no 1 bed properties for them to move into, then you cannot take in new single homeless persons into hostels  = an acute increase in those forced to sleep rough.  The same process happens in domestic abuse refuges and leads to more prolonged domestic abuse as refuges cannot take new clients in if they can’t move the existing survivors out.

In short, the chronic mismatch of social housing supply and demand is much more important than an imbalance in a chart. It has devastating adverse impacts. 

In fact the age-old errant adage that girls deliberately get pregnant to get a council house now has some extremely offensive logic to it as SRS housing is awash with 2 bed and 3 bed housing and you have no chance of getting a 1 bed so get pregnant to get a 2 bed! This gives an obscene level of irony to the uber right –wing ideologues who repeated this get prenant to get council housing myth ad infinitum and then introduced the bedroom tax to ensure it happens given SRS housing supply!

The bedroom tax incentivises the get pregnant to get a council house myth and which reveals the acute lack of pre-thought in the policy which devastates communities by forced moves if you start a family due to its allocation on immediate bedroom need only.

I could write so much more yet to sumamrise any business who only stocks Medium and Large goods when the acute demand is for Small products is an idiot and unfit for purpose.  This, reader, describes social landlords aptly and accurately and for many decades as these facts reveal and also accurately describes housing policy of the Conservatives regarding social housing which they despise.