New research published today debunks the myth that social housing residents are characterised by high levels of benefits dependency.
The latest Real London Lives research report, commissioned by the University of York, reveals that rather than being blighted by long-term unemployment and low aspiration, there is a strong commitment to work among social housing tenants, despite difficult circumstances and personal vulnerability.
Two-thirds of residents in social housing who can reasonably be expected to work do, however three-quarters were only ‘holding steady’ financially, due to low wages and a shortage of working hours.
Much like the experiences of other workers, jobs taken by social housing residents do not necessarily guarantee financial security and don’t always offer a steady wage.
Social housing tenancy is supporting people through many of the challenges they face in life, protecting and strengthening the family unit and insulating vulnerable people who may otherwise become homeless.
Social housing provides tenants with the opportunity to achieve independence from benefits, says the report.
The research also lays to rest the myth that migrants gain access to social housing easily. Contrary to common public perception, migrants have ‘no advantage in the allocation of housing’, say researchers. Indeed, the report found that access to social housing is anything but easy for all groups of applicants.
Research also reveals how the government’s controversial ‘bedroom tax’ housing policy is not incentivising tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit to downsize to a smaller property. 50% of residents who did wish to downsize to a smaller property said it wasn’t because of ‘bedroom tax’, but more to do with the home itself. Those who chose to stay put and accept the hit on their benefits did so because of a long-standing emotional attachment to their home.
Mark Rogers, CEO of Circle Housing and Deputy Chair of the g15, said:
“The lazy stereotypes about social housing residents are simply wrong. There are people in professional careers, people working part-time, people on zero hours contracts, some holding down two jobs, others in training, and some with no real prospect of employment due to physical or mental health problems.
“This research shows there are no easy answers for policy makers. Social housing residents are not ‘shirkers’, but a diverse, complex mix of ordinary households trying to get by and thrive in the best way they can.
“Together, we must use this evidence to make informed policy decisions and have a collective responsibility to ensure that the voices of this diverse community of Londoners are heard.”
The report aims to achieve better understanding into the lives of Londoners living in social housing and their ‘financial resilience’ in the wake of welfare reform and a changing labour market.
Researchers surveyed 1,648 working-age social housing residents of the g15 group of housing associations.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 19 Nov 2014