Housing affordability and policy change: impacts on wellbeing in the UK

Christine Whitehead presents at an ARC sponsored symposium titled ‘Illuminating the black box of housing and health’, Univerisity of Adelaide. Presentation titled, ‘Housing affordability and policy change: impacts on wellbeing in the UK‘.

Some conclusions on housing:

  • Housing specific subsidies of all types have been a major benefit, limiting housing poverty through supply, below market rents and income support.
  • In the social sector in particular HAs have provided management support and security for tenants;
  • The growth of the PRS, while generally increasing standards, has left many households more insecure and paying unaffordable rents – and some unable to live seperately;
  • Welfare changes are leading to greater insecurity and lower incomes – but poorest have still been protected up to now;
  • Major issue around work incentives because high incidence of HB and high rents means large numbers of working households on partial benefit;
  • Those in owner-occupation generally doing better – but many excluded even though could afford to buy so paying more in the PRS for less;
  • Most welfare impacts still to come;
  • Underlying all these findings is dysfunctionality in both the welfare system structure and the housing system particularly with respect to new housing supply;a
  • And the intention of reducing government subsidy to housing.

Some conclusions on wellbeing:

  • Very little street homelessness – which has the worst outcomes;
  • Still very bad among those in temporary accommodation;
  • Physical housing conditions generally continue to improve;
  • Insecurity and its impact of mental health and wellbeing worsened by growth of PRS and changes to social tenancies;
  • Affordability a major problem for those just above HB and a growing problem for those on HB. Leaves increasing numbers of households without minimum income– leading to poorer diet, inadequate heating and serious pressures on mental health;
  • But need to be careful not to cry wolf. In work benefits being cut but incomes rising; cuts are as yet marginal in social sector; elderly and physically heavily disabled protected; outright ownership growing and those in owner-occupation benefit from low interest rates;
  • Single parents and large families at increasing risk from welfare cap;
  • But those where housing affordability affects wellbeing most are young singles tenure – and those who are most fearful of change – including in particular the disabled with lesser disabilities but little access to employment;
  • Principles of housing in relation to welfare set in place in 1947 beginning to be eroded.

The entire presentation can be accessed and downloaded here.

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