This June, in light of lack of public trust after the Grenfell disaster, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire promised that a green paper on social housing would be published before the parliamentary recess. Its failure to appear, despite a worsening housing crisis and the fact that the Labour party published its own review of social housing back in April, has led to widespread anger across the housing sector.
A freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice regarding the number of evictions over the past 5 years by mortgage companies, private landlords, and social landlords such as councils and housing associations has today uncovered some shocking statistics.
From January to March 2018, housing associations and councils accounted for a staggering 65 per cent of evictions granted, while evictions granted to private landlords, 5,704 in all, represented just 18 per cent of the total. This could be partially explained as a consequence of fewer private landlords taking tenants in receipt of benefit, or of the full negative impact of Universal Credit and the housing-benefit reforms not yet having made itself felt.
London Boroughs account for 8 out of the 10 local authorities who make the highest number of repossession claims, while the use of court bailiffs by social landlords (housing associations and councils) has soared from 1,000 cases just 5 years ago to 5,800 cases and rising by 2016-17.
The highest number of evictions from social housing were in Greenwich (502), Brent (436), and Barking and Dagenham (300). The area outside London with the highest level of evictions from social housing was Coventry.
Although the number of evictions may seem comparatively small considering the fact that local councils still own 1.06 million homes, far too many people are increasingly driven to call their local street, communal bin area, or shop doorway their new “home”.
In the present economic and political climate, it is hard to believe that any parties green paper could even begin to address this crisis in housing that is costing us all so much. The 5,000 new social-housing homes built over the past 10 years is derisory, and the staggering numbers of people employed in homeless “industry” is a scandal in itself.
The same thing seems to be happening to housing as has already happened to food. Just as food poverty and foodbanks became too toxic for any party to address properly, so housing is now a department in which ministers come and go almost every week. But the situation is truly urgent and a genuine, cross-party solution has to be found. As even the middle classes begin to suffer the effects of the rollout of Universal Credit and the reforms to housing benefit, and as councils find it ever more difficult to balance their budgets, evictions are an expense no council or housing association should be paying for.