Housing cost struggles driving rising poverty, report reveals

“It’s time for us to decide what kind of country we want to be.”

homeless (11)

The struggle to pay for housing – rising social rents, more low-income families with children living in the private rented sector, and growing shortfalls in Housing Benefit –  are forcing parents to use “other income” to cover their rent, a new report reveals.

Released today (4th Dec) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), the report represents another blow to a government already exposed over its record on poverty and counters government rhetoric over rising employment indicating potential for prosperity.

Based on its own evidence, JRF is reinforcing calls for reforms including:

  • At the Comprehensive Spending Review, the government invests in building at least 80,000 genuinely affordable homes a year
  • Ending the freeze on benefits and tax credits a year early next spring to anchor people against low pay and high costs

As well as helping 200,000 people out of poverty, it would increase the incomes of nearly 14m people on low incomes by an average of £270 in 2020/21

  • More employers committing to the real Living Wage and workforce training

Campbell Robb, JRF chief executive, said: “It’s time for us to decide what kind of country we want to be, we can do this by taking action on housing, social security and work to loosen the constraints poverty places on people’s lives.

“No one wants to see more families being pushed over the brink.”

UK Poverty 2018 shows, overall, one in five of the UK population (22%) are in poverty –  which equates to 14.3 million people.

Of these, 8.2 million are working-age adults, 4.1 million are children and 1.9 million are pensioners.

The report shows eight million people live in poverty in families where at least one person is in work as in-work poverty rises even faster than employment – with nearly all of the increase among working parents.

According to the report there are now four million workers in poverty – around one in eight in the economy – while in a typical classroom of 30 children, nine are now living in poverty.

The report identifies the rise as primarily driven by a struggle to pay for housing, parents stuck in low-paid work with little progression and gains from the National Living Wage and tax cuts being outweighed by changes to tax credits and benefits that top up low wages.

Crucially, the report sees much of the progress on reducing poverty unravel made ahead of the coalition government as starting to unravel, with successive Tory governments only hastening the pace.

Over recent weeks, a United Nations report accused the government of  “abandoning compassion” to make poverty a political choice, while the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the government made the political choice to “balance its budget on the backs of the poorest”.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “It is indefensible that half a million more children have been pushed into poverty, even though many of their parents are in work.

“A chronic shortage of housing continues to be one of the major drivers for this, which is why building more affordable homes must remain at the top of the political agenda.

“Staggering numbers of families now live in poverty in a private rented sector which is not equipped to house them, and increasing numbers are living in poor and disruptive conditions in temporary accommodation.

“Our research shows we need to build as many as 145,000 affordable homes each year to make up for the shortfall.

“This won’t be achievable until government makes land more affordable for organisations trying to build social housing – they are struggling to directly compete with private developers who are making millions in profit,” she said.

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