Escaping the ghetto mentality
With social housing in short supply, and with the existing obligation to house those meeting set criteria, it is increasingly only those whose circumstances are most desperate who get housed. It is, as has been noted, a case of putting a roof over the heads of those most in need. The catch is that, as a result, estates of social housing become sinks for the worst social problems in our communities, places where aspiration is low, achievement lower.
Many people have concluded that restoring the social mix in these estates is key - after all, if people are conditioned by their circumstances, then introducing people with jobs into the community might provide role models to those seeking to improve their lot. However, with current policies, you can't do that, leaving such areas to spiral downwards into despair and deprivation. If building the hundreds and thousands of new social housing units that would allow an improvement in the social mix isn't viable, what do you do instead?
Creating a bridge from your parents to your own home
Finding a place to live is difficult, especially in our big cities. The cost of renting, relative to salary levels, is almost out of reach of many twenty-somethings in London. However, if they could move into social housing, this would drive rents down across the board, as the government can already cap housing benefit. But again, you'd need the sort of change of policy that is being proposed.
Challenging the rewards for fecklessness
There are a lot of people in this country, who, fairly or otherwise, believe that we devote far too many resources to those they define as scroungers, people who could work but don't, those who are perceived to be asking the State (or more appropriately, taxpayers) to support their 'lifestyle choice'. And there is no doubt that some of those on benefits are making the logical calculation that if working makes them only marginally better off, why go to the trouble?
The notion that the State should be there for, as Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, puts it, honest, hardworking, decent, tax-paying English people, is widely held. The idea that such people should pay their taxes to support a bunch of people to skive all day whilst they themselves struggle to get by is a deeply unpopular one.
And yes, there is a differentiation between 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor. We all make it, although our definitions of deserving and undeserving may vary depending upon our social consciences. So, is a homeless person with a job more deserving than one without one? Of course, the answer is, "that depends upon the circumstances" - easy in principle, less so in practice.
So, there are three reasons that might justify giving those with jobs preference in allocating social housing. Note that I'm not saying they will...
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