Editorial

Urgent action needed to address key worker housing crisis

Many areas of the UK have sky-high rents, making it tougher for essential workers, such as nurses, to live there.
Housing Cost

We report this week that nurses living in a block of flats in south east London faced with a 20% rent hike have been given just 8 weeks to pay up or move out ( RCN calls for affordable housing for nurses )

What a way to treat essential workers or anyone for that matter. The rise amounts to an extra 150 a month. Who can afford that? Certainly not nurses who have had no pay rise for 4 years (in other words effectively a pay cut).

Key worker housing schemes are meant to be about providing affordable accommodation for vital staff. But it is time we took a long hard look at how this policy is working in practice.

What does affordable really mean? The average monthly rent (according to June 2016 HomeLet figures) in Greater

We report this week that nurses living in a block of flats in south east London faced with a 20% rent hike have been given just 8 weeks to pay up or move out (RCN calls for affordable housing for nurses)

What a way to treat essential workers – or anyone for that matter. The rise amounts to an extra £150 a month. Who can afford that? Certainly not nurses who have had no pay rise for 4 years (in other words effectively a pay cut). 

Key worker housing schemes are meant to be about providing ‘affordable’ accommodation for vital staff. But it is time we took a long hard look at how this policy is working in practice.

What does ‘affordable’ really mean? The average monthly rent (according to June 2016 HomeLet figures) in Greater London is £1,575. In Scotland it’s £702 while in the east Midlands it’s £651 a month. That last figure sounds low but, proportionately, rents are rising faster there.

Key worker tenancies typically guarantee rents 20% lower than the local market rate – which is not that helpful when rents in your area are sky-high.

High priority issue

It is a complex picture. But one obvious answer is to build more genuinely affordable homes. House building slowed down in the run-up to the EU referendum and has yet to pick up, while in the post-Brexit era of uncertainty, pressure on rented accommodation is higher than ever as people rent rather than buy while they wait to see what happens to house prices.

For many young nurses getting on the property ladder is a distant dream while even key worker rent levels are starting to move out of their league. It is time more local authorities, housing associations and local NHS organisations joined together to come up with some creative solutions – like those planned in the ten NHS-supported ‘healthy new towns’ initiative announced earlier this year aimed at kick-starting affordable housing schemes.

But ten areas are not enough. We have a national housing crisis on our hands – with hotspots in city centres – and nurses are being priced out of decent accommodation near their place of work. This issue must be treated as a higher priority because, at the end of the day, no nurses means no healthcare.

Janet Snell is managing editor, Nursing Standard 

HomeLet Rental Index

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