Social housing and under-occupation: the wrong priorities
As we know, the government thinks too many homes in the social rented sector are “under-occupied.” They’re so worked up about the issue they plan to restrict Housing Benefit for working age people with a council or Housing Association property that is “larger than their household size requires.” (Full discosure: my boss signed a letter to the Guardian opposing this.)
Today’s statistics from the English Housing Survey throw an interesting light on the government’s concerns. There’s a useful table that looks at owner occupiers, people in private rented properties and social renters and says what proportion of each live in homes that are at standard, 1 room above, under-occupied and over-crowded (an issue the government keeps quiet about.) Most people in all types of tenure live in properties that are either at standard or just one bedroom above, but look at the extremes:
The first point to note is that a much higher proportion of owners than renters have homes that are “under-occupied”. The same applies to the absolute levels too: they account for 88 per cent of under-occupied homes.
But the other point is the gradient for over-crowding: the real scandal isn’t that social tenants are under-occupying their flats and houses, it’s that they are far more likely than other families to live in over-crowded homes. It says something about the government’s priorities that they can ignore this and obsess about the thought that someone is getting more bedrooms than they deserve.