Homelessness to rocket in England. The majority of evictions into it will be from ‘social’ (sic) housing

The typical household, government inform, will pay £2500 per year for energy use from 1st October 22 to 31st March 2024.  In fact Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all is telling us this and of course the £2,500 is NOT a maximum figure as this graphic reveals.

The typical household paid £1,277 per year for energy use from 1st April 21 to 31st March 2022.  This is a 96% increase in the cost of domestic gas and electricity for every household and what households will struggle the most to pay this 96% increase?

Household income by tenure is rarely discussed yet the official data in the English Housing Survey is extremely pertinent as it reveals starkly that those living in council and housing associations will struggle far more than anyone else. 

Median household incomes by tenure sees the EHS reveal for FY1920:

  • All household median income of £631 per week
  • Owner occupier median income of £765 per week (119%)
  • Private Renter median income of £562 per week (89%)
  • Social Renter median income of £331 per week (52%)

Social renters with a median household income of barely half the English median household income will therefore struggle far more than the private renter or the mortgage-payer or those who own outright in paying the massive hike in energy prices.

This is compounded by other EHS official data that reveals 43% of SRS households have energy prepayment meters which is 19% in the PRS and 3% in owner-occupier tenure.  Aside from paying more for the pleasure of prepaying and cost of money issues and the inability to use direct debt or standing order the 1.72 million social housing tenant households HAVE to feed these meters to (a) keep the lights on; (b) keep the fridge on to store food; and (c) in order to escape paying far more in penalties when meters have run out as deductions are taken out when those meters have run out and then re-fed.

There were 3.02 million energy prepayment meters in 2019/20 with 1.72 million being in the SRS, 836k in the PRS and 462k in owner occupied tenures.  A report last week by CAB projected a further 450k prepayment meters being fitted by December this year and extrapolated means those figures become 1.98 million SRS, 961k in PRS and 530k owner-occupied households.

49.6% of all council and housing association households will have energy prepayment meters by Christmas this year; 1 in every 2 SRS properties, SRS properties which have median incomes of barely half the All England amount.  When we consider that the 96% increase in energy bills will undoubtedly factor in the housing arrears to eviction to homeless pathway we can see that there is a high probability of more social housing than private renting tenants being evicted in the near future.

The rent does NOT eat first in social housing!

The orthodoxy in private renting of the rent eats first is valid yet it is specious when it comes to those who live in social housing where the energy eats first

The SRS context of significantly lower median household income and a significantly higher energy prepayment meters – and which HAVE to be paid first and even before the heat or eat narratives – mean that the payment of rent is NOT the primary expenditure. The rent does NOT eat first, the energy eats first for SRS tenants and households.

But everyone in social housing gets their rent paid in full …

Oh dear!  This is a huge myth which proliferates like so many myths around social housing.  The latest EHS official data reveals 36% get their rent paid in full, 25% get some benefit towards their rent and 39% of SRS households get no housing benefit at all.  Universal Credit adds a further issue of the rent benefit (UC housing cost element) being paid directly to the SRS tenant as the default which leaves the poorest SRS households with the choice of paying their full rent of their family being warm or having food in their bellies. 

Even those who receive ‘full housing benefit’ will not be able to afford to pay full rent to their council or housing association landlord!

SRS rent arrears will rocket between today and next April putting RP (council) and PRP (housing association) landlords at extreme financial risk of survival.  If 10% of SRS rent goes unpaid / SRS tenants pay 90% of rent this is a £40 million+ underpayment of rent per week in that charged by social landlords in England and a cautious estimate of rent going unpaid over the next six months until the overwhelming majority of SRS households receive an increase in monthly income whether by way of benefit and/or wage. 

RP and PRP landlords especially are however fixated on what the post April 23 period means for them by way of what rent increases they can impose … and they are ignoring those whom they have the temerity to call the customer in both the six months until any rent increases can be imposed as well as after this in the next financial year beginning in April … noting the Kwarteng mini budget data stated there will be no ‘mitigations’ by way of cost of living payments or energy rebates from April 23 to March 24.

The facts and the context above are just the realisation of the social housing tenant position – facts which purportedly ‘social’ landlords have always largely ignored and in these exceptional times of soaring inflations, soaring interest rates and the cost of living crises all mean is an extremely dangerous and business incompetent position to adopt.  The same ostrich syndrome is adopted by think tanks, by housing and homeless lobbies and by government and even the housing and homeless activists.  Nothing happens in a vacuum yet this is the assumed context of all of these housing and homeless and political actors.

Evictions into homelessness will be far greater from the social rented sector than from the private rented sector and homeless numbers are going to rocket in every local authority area of England leaving councils with hugely increased costs of homelessness and from 2023/24 budgets that will be far less than they are in real terms from their 2022/23 current budgets.  If you really want nuance and nerdy data then the figures released in the Spring Statement reveal that English DHP funding to LAs will reduce from £180m per year to £100m per year and at a time when English LAs will need many hundreds of millions more just for the cost of increasing homeless household numbers.

In summary, when we barely scratch the surface to look at the lot of the existing social tenant households and from their dimension we see nothing but increased poverty, increased eviction and homelessness and increased NO DSS operated by council and housing association landlords. 

I don’t and nobody should look forward to the official data on evictions and homelessness for Q1 and Q2 of 2023 when they emerge in Q4 2023 and likely after the SRS rent increases for April 2024 have been decided that will increase them even more. 

Finally, I apologise for my crass naivety in looking at social (sic) housing from the point of view of the poor bastards who reside there.  Someone has to and it won’t be social landlords or sycophantic housing and homeless lobbies that choose to only look at PRS tenant issues are they are easier arguments to sell to the ‘general’ public and to increase donations from the chattering classes. 

How dare I say such ‘hurtful’ things eh?  How dare I mention that median incomes and energy prepayment meters and other vital facts are pertinent to consider when myth, assumption and shibboleth are the standard orthodoxy and have been for decades regarding the social housing model! 

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