In 2011 the Office of National Statistics reported that 35% of households were occupied by just one person. Despite the growing number of singletons in the UK, they remain at the bottom of the pile for affordable housing provision.
According to the government guidelines on housing benefit, “if you’re single and under 35, you can only get Housing Benefit for bed-sit accommodation or a single room in shared accommodation.”
An IPPR report published today (10th November) found that “across combined authorities many models [of affordable housing] are out of the reach of single people” throughout the UK. This problem is particularly evident in London; another recent IPPR report published in September 2017 found that for household incomes of below the median £32,885, all affordable home ownership in the capital is unaffordable. At or below the average UK income, London affordable rent remains unsustainable, and in the 10th decile, even social rent is unsustainable.
This situation is made worse by the fact that London as a whole missed its affordable housing target in 2015/16, and according to the IPPR report, is on track to miss it again. In fact, 92% of councils across the UK are failing to meet their affordable housing needs according to IPPR.
But despite the growing need for single-occupant affordable housing, affordable family housing remains firmly in the public eye, with other areas of housing need not receiving their fair share of focus and delivery.
Crisis have criticised the government for the limited choices for singletons. Between 2011/12, and the end of 2016, Crisis reported a 53% increase in the number of 26-35 year olds sleeping rough in London. Crisis have called on the government to assess whether there is an adequate supply of shared accommodation.
With a growing number of individuals choosing to remain single for much of their life, the Government will likely face a mounting pressure to provide more affordable housing opportunities for singletons, and will need to react to this growing lifestyle choice. In 2015, Parliament recognised that the growing housing need for one-person households was not being met. However, the perception persists - most notably in the political firmament – that it is family housing that is of greatest need.
An outdated assumption prevails throughout government affordable housing policy, that single life is temporary, and hence singletons looking for somewhere to live do not need a long-term housing option, as they will come to settle down with a partner in the future.
With new build to rent and co-living projects slowed down by viability, planning and political constraints there is a growing gap in the housing market for a huge and important part of our population – young, economically active, and single.