Property expert Kate Faulkner's guide to social housing

. Credit: ITV News

According to Shelter, there are over 300,000 households on the council waiting list.

There have been moves to slash these lists over recent years, not by providing housing, but by changing the rules and extending the time people had to have lived in the borough for.

Things like the Bedroom Tax have put further pressure on those needing affordable social housing.

We know that the problems of social and affordable homes need desperately to be sorted.

And with an economy which is still in need of a boost and many of our younger generation struggling to find jobs, building homes and helping to potentially slash housing benefit bills can only be good for all.

Governments and local authorities are rapidly running out of time to fix the problem as homes are becoming overcrowded and at some stage, local communities in unaffordable areas just won’t be sustainable.

For London to continue thriving as an international powerhouse, it has to provide property for social housing purposes, but also for people on lower incomes who need to buy properties for less than £300,000 and rent properties for £500 to £1,000 a month and no-one seems responsible for the latter market.

London Mayor Boris Johnson Credit: PA

Although Boris and the team are doing what they can to address this issue, it’s a drop in the ocean and they have missed the original targets they set themselves. To alleviate the problem and ensure London builds more social housing and affordable housing than just provide properties for the rich, we need:-

  • Government and local authorities need to be put under more pressure to release land and property for conversion to social and affordable homes

  • Private investors (these are different to mainstream developers who buy and build) need to penalised for ‘land banking’

  • Encourage more financial investment using Local Authority pension funds especially those that are currently under-performing to invest in local homes (See the Future Homes Commission)

  • There is also plenty of money available in the private sector for institutional investment into long term affordable rent and private money which could be invested with housing associations.

  • We need to build more mixed communities of different tenures (owned, rented, social) to allow private money to help fund affordable and social homes

Finally we need to find policies which help to tackle issues which prevent the existing social housing stock from working properly. Penalising people for having a spare bedroom without giving them an alternative option won’t work. Universal Credit could end up severely damaging the financials of housing associations through increased debt.

South London Credit: PA

And as a private landlord, why would I choose to take a tenant on benefits which are capped when Universal Credit will also mean I’m unlikely to have a Housing Benefit officer to complain to if the tenant keeps the money rather than passing it onto me? All this will do is push benefit tenants out of the private rental sector back to the social sector, reversing the trend currently encouraged.

Top tips for securing social housing

If you think you are eligible for social housing, it’s important to approach your local bodies as rules can change:-

  • Visit your local authority and housing associations as they will have their own rules and regulations of who is eligible

  • Most will have a ‘points’ or ‘banding’ system you will be placed into. Typically those who are homeless, have a medical condition affected by your home or are living in overcrowding conditions take priority

  • You will either be given properties to consider, or a list of properties available to ‘bid’ for

  • Your tenancy is likely to be for 12 months, 2-5 years, or for life under a secure tenancy agreement

  • If you are moving on, typically the council will need four weeks notice.

Prime Minister David Cameron with first time buyers Credit: PA

Are you eligible for Right to Buy?

Currently in London you can apply to buy your own social home under ‘right to buy’. To find out more:-

  • Visit the Right to Buy website to see if you are eligible

  • Apply to buy your property through the Right to Buy form

  • If your application is accepted, you will be sent an offer to purchase your property

  • Once you have this offer, you will need to work out the costs of buying, running your property and especially maintaining it. If it’s leasehold, it is essential to know what the major works cost and service charges will be long term.

Prime Minister David Cameron with first time buyers Credit: PA