There are few things more desperately needed in the UK right now than housing (besides clarification of what on earth is going on with Brexit). House prices have continued to rise, despite uncertainty over what will happen when we leave the EU; the private rental market remains out of control and is predicted to get worse; and demand for housing continues to outstrip supply. The UK's housing crisis urgently needs solving.
A lack of social housing – homes rented from the council or a housing association – is a major sticking point. England needs 3 million new social homes in the next 20 years, according to a report by a cross-party housing commission published this week, and Shelter has an ongoing campaign calling on the government to build more social homes. There are nearly 1.2m households on the waiting list – and many more people in need.
Social housing accommodates "more vulnerable groups than other sectors" and accounted for 17% of households in England in 2016-17, according to the government's most recent English Housing Survey on the social rented sector. It's crucial for people needing to escape from hazardous or overcrowded private properties, for those with disabilities, homeless people, lone parents, low earners and people living in fear of domestic violence. In particular, social housing is a lifeline for women. Fifty-eight percent of households in the social rented sector were headed by women in 2016-17, which the government said was "unsurprising". It continued: "Lower incomes and lone parenting – both of which are more prevalent among women – mean women are generally more likely to be eligible for social housing which is allocated on the basis of need."
Ahead, three women who have lived in social housing explain what it means to them.