Charity warns of ‘great bungalow sell-off’ as Housing Bill reaches Lords
Elderly people could risk losing their homes in a ‘great British bungalow sell-off’, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) warned as the controversial Housing and Planning Bill was read in the House of Lords.
The Bill aims to extend the Right to Buy for Housing Association tenants, but the Foundation warned that bungalows are likely to make up 25% of high value property sales due to their higher cost and more frequent vacancies, despite representing just 9% of local authority owned housing.
Researchers estimate this will result in the loss of 15,300 local authority-owned bungalows in the next five years – one in fifteen of the total number in England.
One in five elderly people in the UK live in a bungalow and the proportion increases as they approach age 75, meaning that elderly people could face a housing crisis under the new rules.
Brian Robson, policy and research manager at JRF, said: “The Housing Bill will reduce the number of affordable homes at a time of an acute housing crisis and we risk holding a great British bungalow sell-off that will make things worse for older and disabled tenants who are trying to find suitable, affordable accommodation.
“An adequate supply of social housing is essential. The increasing reliance on costly, insecure tenancies in the private rented sector to house families on low incomes will only serve to trap more people in poverty. Unless changes to the Bill are made, older people and people who are sick or disabled will be particularly badly hit. Creating more homes for sale is a vital piece of the puzzle, but these must not come at the expense of vulnerable tenants.”
JRF also warns that the bungalows are unlikely to be replaced because of the extra land needed and higher cost of building one storey homes.
The Local Government Association has warned that 80,000 council homes in general will not be replaced because of the extension.
In a survey of local authorities, released yesterday, 89% of respondents said the cap meant that less housing would be available for social rent.
The proportion of elderly person households in bungalows rises to one in four where a household member is sick or disabled, meaning that sick and disabled elderly people are likely to be particularly affected by the loss of bungalows.
The Foundation is calling on the government to protect older people and those with disabilities by making bungalows and sheltered and supported housing exempt from the High Value Sales initiative.
This would follow a precedent set by Northern Ireland, which exempts bungalows and ground-floor flats from the House Sales Scheme, a similar initiative to the Right to Buy.
The government announced yesterday that the new housing benefit cap will be suspended for a year for supported housing.
Less housing for homeless
At the Bill’s reading yesterday, Lord Best expressed concern that the Bill provided support to first-time buyers but none to those who can’t afford to buy.
He proposed an amendment giving the secretary of state the power to underwrite a national scheme that would give charities, such as Crisis, the power to give private landlords a bond guarantee for homeless tenants, allowing those who couldn’t afford a deposit to find rented accommodation.
Lord Best said: “The Bill seeks to do good things in increasing the supply of housing and supporting first-time home buyers, but it neglects, indeed disadvantages, those who simply cannot become owner-occupiers. W
“hile there is widespread support for the Bill’s measures to help more young people to buy, there is also widespread alarm that this is not additional to helping the less affluent but is in place of doing so. We are worried that the options for poorer households are being closed off. Councils and housing associations, as we will be exploring in later amendments, are likely to be doing less for those on average and below-average incomes. Where, then, can these families and single people go?”
In response Baroness Williams, the parliamentary under-secretary for communities and local government, said: “This government’s approach is to support a provision of resources to local authorities at a local level. This is because they can then use the funding flexibly to meet local needs. Of course, different areas have particular requirements. To divert scarce funding into a single national approach would not always be the best or most effective use of resources and to specifically underwrite a national scheme may not be the best use of resources.”
She added that the government had helped prevent nearly 200,000 households from becoming homeless and given Crisis £14m to help single homeless people into private rented accommodation, with 9000 helped so far.
The amendment was ultimately not moved.