From the TUC

Social housing and under-occupation: the wrong priorities

09 Feb 2012, by in Society & Welfare

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.


2 Responses to Social housing and under-occupation: the wrong priorities

  1. Ben
    Feb 9th 2012, 1:26 pm

    Without sight of the actual stats it’s hard to determine precisely, but what leaps out of that graph to me is that a 75% reduction in under-occupation of social housing could alleviate over-crowding in the social sector… entirely.

    Isn’t that a good thing?

  2. Jim
    Feb 9th 2012, 1:57 pm

    Ben, you’re wrong. The vast majority of under-occupiers in social housing are in three-bedroom homes, while about 40% of overcrowded social renting households need four bedrooms or more. As well as that, under-occupying households tend to be in different regions from overcrowded ones, which makes your kind of ‘just move everybody about’ solution extremely impractical.