A decent home for every family
While historically there is a direct relationship between poverty and poor housing the connection is not well understood by policy makers. Housing costs weigh particularly heavily on low-income families: before housing costs 2.6 million children were counted as poor in 2009/10, nut this figure rises to 3.8 million after housing costs are taken into account.
- Availability. The pressure on the UK’s limited and often antiquated housing stock is extreme. This is reflected in high rents and house price, in pressure on local authority housing lists, in families stuck in temporary accommodation which radically undermines family life, and in raised community tensions about housing allocations from different communities.
- Poor quality. Not only are there not enough houses but accommodation is often unsuitable for children. Poor quality housing damages health, through for example more accidents, poorer mental health and links between asthma and damp environments. Living in overcrowded conditions leaves children with no space to do homework or have their friends over to play.
- Wider environments. Poorer housing is likely to be found in poorer neighbourhoods which lack the amenities such as shops and open spaces that many of us take for granted. Although police figures often show that people overestimate the threat of crime in their areas, poorer areas are associated with a higher incidence of criminal offences than wealthier neighbourhoods.
- Social isolation. Public housing was designed for all. Over time, however, and as a result of policies such as the right-to-buy and the failure to replenish local authority housing stock, public housing tenants have become less heterogeneous. Instead, public housing has become almost coterminous for some with problem families, stigmatising children and adults alike and playing into a dangerous ‘us-and-them’ mentality.
The government has committed to building new affordable but other policies look set to take us further from the ideal of a decent home for all than ever. For example, changes to housing benefit such as the cap on the maximum number of rooms per claim, and the down- rating of the maximum HB claim from 50 per cent to 30 per cent of median rents, will condemn many low-income families to lives in poor quality and often overcrowded housing.
If child poverty is to become history, CPAG believes that the question of housing must be addressed through a coherent programme of action which increases stock while also addressing the quality of housing and providing sufficient support for children living in poverty to grow up in decent homes.