London (Parliament Politic Magazine) – Renters earning over £30,000 are being unjustly excluded from affordable housing schemes, despite their ability to meet the rent requirements. Many individuals applied for these schemes through advertisements that did not specify a minimum income level, only to be informed later that their earnings fell short.
The minimum income threshold for most schemes ranges from £35,000 to approximately £60,000. This exclusionary practice has caught the attention of the chair of the parliamentary housing committee, who believes that the official regulator should investigate the selection process for affordable housing tenants.
Housing Schemes for Individuals with Limited Incomes
Affordable housing is intended for individuals with limited incomes, as defined by the UK government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities. However, understanding the concept can be perplexing, as it encompasses various rental or purchase schemes, each with its own set of eligibility criteria.
Upon examining advertisements for affordable housing rentals in London, the BBC discovered that 28 out of 40 listings did not specify a minimum income requirement. Among the remaining 12 listings that did mention income criteria, the range varied from £30,000 to £60,000, with one exception at £27,750.
It is worth mentioning that the median income in the capital stands at £34,424 per year, according to government data. Housing charity Shelter has informed us that individuals with low incomes are being systematically excluded by housing providers, who instead prioritize higher-earning individuals perceived as less likely to default on their monthly rent payments.
According to Charlie Trew, the Head of Policy at Shelter, the reduction in government funding for affordable housing has compelled providers to prioritize their financial interests above all else. The BBC presented this charge to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities; however, no response was provided by them. Furthermore, there is an inquiry about the potential exclusion of low-income renters.
The Story of Annual Income of Just Under £33,000
In response, a spokesperson stated that affordable housing is intended for individuals with limited incomes, and any offers made should align with this principle. Additionally, they expressed their strong disapproval of housing providers misleading tenants through inaccurate advertising.
Sam, who is 26 years old, currently pays £925 per month to privately rent a room in a two-bedroom flat located in east London. Despite his desire to purchase his own property, he has managed to save £15,000 towards a deposit.
When Sam came across an opportunity to apply for a rental flat within an affordable housing scheme, specifically a London Living Rent property designed for individuals looking to save for a deposit in the long run, he eagerly seized the chance. However, upon reviewing the advertisement, he realized that while it mentioned a maximum income of £60,000, it failed to specify a minimum income requirement.
During the application process, he requested a transfer to a different apartment within a separate development managed by the housing association, L&Q.
The rent for the second property, located in Newham, was comparable to what he was previously paying for a single room. Additionally, it provided the reassurance of a three-year tenancy agreement and the potential opportunity to purchase the property in the future.
Very Precise Investigation
In response to our findings, Clive Betts, a Labour MP and chair of the parliamentary housing select committee, has called for a thorough investigation by the Regulator of Social Housing into the selection process for affordable housing tenants. Currently, the regulator oversees the majority of providers, but does not monitor affordability checks or the criteria used to select tenants.
“It seems to me that if the associations are regulated and their tenancies are regulated, then how the tenancies are set up and how they are advertised should be regulated as well,” reveals Mr Betts. He also stated the government needed to look at its guidance on affordable housing “with a degree of urgency”.
The London Living Rent property that Sam applied for is partially funded by the Mayor of London’s office. According to the Mayor’s website, the Living Rent properties are described as truly affordable. A spokesperson from the Mayor’s team stated,”
It is highly recommended that all housing providers prioritize clarity and transparency when it comes to the allocation of properties to tenants. Sam, disheartened by his unsuccessful attempts to secure affordable housing and fulfill his dream of homeownership.