Private Renting & Social Housing:
Joanna Fletcher lives in a one-bedroom apartment with her 10-year-old son. The building she lives in has mould and vermin and her landlord is threatening her with eviction.
While she would like to leave, she’s doing her best to stay the eviction as long as possible because she can’t find anywhere locally that she can afford, and she doesn’t want to leave the area because of her son’s schooling.
Sound a familiar scene? Well it’s not London, or even Manchester, its Vancouver Canada.
Joanna Fletcher is not alone in feeling the impact of the housing affordability crisis affecting cities across the world.
It’s a universal problem and far from being confined to the British Isles, as many UK residents might imagine. They would be excused for thinking so, given the regular media hype and general anti-landlord sentiment, but the problem runs deep.
It’s a problem that no western government can easily solve. It’s the same problem from Warrington to Wellington New Zealand, from Swansea to San Francisco.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says that average rents in Canada have increased by 2.7% in 2017, while the availability of rental accommodation has become increasingly limited.
The overall vacancy rate for cities across Canada was just three per cent in 2017, down from 3.7 per cent in 2016 – demand for rentals is outpacing the growth in supply, a result of the decline in government spending on social housing.
Across the world low cost housing is in short supply, for the simple reason that private developers go for middle and up-market developments, which are the most profitable. At the same time cash strapped local authorities and central governments just don’t have the necessary resources to alleviate the situation.
Craig Jones, a University of British Columbia PhD candidate, says that the situation in Canada is largely the result of the government’s move away from building rental housing in the early 1990s.
Statistics Canada say that nearly a quarter of Canadians spent more than 30 per cent of their income last year on housing costs, which he says is recognised as the marker for affordability. Jones says that these statistics show that many people are living in precarious circumstances.
“It’s taken us a long time to get here, it’s taken decades of ignoring the system,” Jones says., and adding that it will take at least 10 years of government commitments to resolve the problem. “That is something that is difficult to do because it’s expensive and it doesn’t show immediate results.”
Meanwhile, according to a recent report by the The Homelessness Monitor, in England over 100,000 households in England are likely to be living in temporary housing within two years on existing trends, an increase of over a quarter on the current total.
Like the crisis in the NHS, the housing problem transcends any one term of government, and party politics.
The explosion in the placement of homeless families, in temporary homes in UK cities, many of them many miles from where they work and go to school, it has to be said, is driven by a dwindling supply of social and private rented housing.