Private sector housing overtakes the social sector for the first time

Following a study published by Shelter and Crisis, Channel 4 News report on how the private sector has overtaken the social sector and that the number of people in privately owned housing is the highest in a decade. Jane Pritchard Housing Solicitor at TV Edwards LLP contributes to the report and the studio debate live on Channel 4 news.

The latest findings of the English Housing Survey for 2012/13 show that of the estimated 22m households in England, four million (18 per cent) were renting privately, while 3.7m (17 per cent) were in social housing. The figures tell a story of massive social change.

 

Jane Pritchard at TV Edwards Solicitors is one of a specialist team of housing solicitors who act for tenants and landlords in possession proceedings and claims for disrepair, Jane comments:

Changes in the law by this government have meant that councils are now able to discharge their duty to house a homeless applicant by placing them in the private sector. This has only exacerbated the problem by further increasing the demand for private sector housing, already high following the recession with the numbers of people loosing their homes soaring. Cuts in the Housing Allowance paid to meet the rent for those on benefits or low incomes, has meant that still more people are becoming homeless as their private sector landlords are evicting them to re-let to those who can pay the market rate.

The private sector can not replace the social sector. We can not have the same expectations on private landlords who are renting their properties on a commercial basis not out of a desire to meet social housing need.

The government says that the majority of people are happy with their private sector housing, but the study by Shelter and Crisis and report by Channel 4 news show the real picture. Too many homeless families and tenants relying on Housing Allowance payments are living in sub-standard housing without access to legal redress. Cuts in Legal Aid have prevented access to justice to thousands of tenants living in properties in disrepair. Those tenants have little hope of improving their situation and their numbers increase daily. They have no choice where they live due to the acute shortage of private sector housing which is available to rent at a price they can afford.

The government state that they are consulting on further changes in the law to make it easier to evict tenants, whilst at the same time protecting tenant’s rights.

Jane Pritchard comments:

The law does not need to change; landlords following the correct procedures can already obtain possession of private sector properties in accelerated proceedings. The government’s aims are of course mutual exclusive. Cuts to public services including the Court Service have resulted in courts in crisis, with unnecessary delays in cases being heard due to shortages of judges and court staff.  Cuts to Legal Aid have seen the number of unrepresented litigants in person soar which in turn also slows down the judicial process.

What we need is medium to long term investment in social housing and immediate action to review and overhaul the caps on Housing Allowance. More social housing is not a quick fix solution, real short term progress could be made if those in private sector housing could afford to pay the market rate. Being able to have a choice in regard to their housing would immediately improve the accountability of landlords currently letting sub-standard housing

TV Edwards Solicitors offer specialist legal advice to tenants and landlords. Free legal advice may be available under provision of the Legal Aid Scheme. Jane Pritchard can be contacted on 07786 15 1166 and 0203 440 8202 jane.pritchard@tvedwards.com. TV Edwards have 6 offices across London and provide a wide range of legal services including specialist advice on; Employment Law, Community Care, Mental Health, Family, Criminal Defence, Property and Probate, Actions Against the Police and Family.