Low income a major impediment for social housing applicants

Despite 29.2% of applicants for social housing work full-time, they only received the average monthly amount of €872

A profiling study of applicants for social housing challenges the public perception that people turn to social housing simply because they are stuck in a practice of dependence or sense of entitlement.

The study by sociologist Dr Maria Brown and statistician Dr Vincent Marmara, based on a questionnaire to 2,030 applicants for social accommodation, shows that despite 29.2% of the applicants work full-time, they were only in receipt of the average monthly amount of €872.

An additional 9.9% who were employed part-time with an average monthly income of €438. Pensioners, who amounted to 14% of the sample, relied on an average pension of €579 per month.

“This appears to dispel the notion that social housing applicants are necessarily welfare dependents,” Leonid McKay, Chief Executive of the Housing Authority, said.

Unemployed applicants accounted for 39% of the total number of applicants. Most of these cited health problems and had to take care of children or elderly, or even disabled relatives as the main reason for their inability to work.

According to McKay the prevalence of 26-45 year-olds in this cohort suggests that such difficulties mainly related to financial constraints and caring duties faced particularly by younger households. In fact 62.6% were single parents, while 75% were females. 27% of applicants were separated or divorced.

29.9% of the applicants are from the Southern Harbour district, which is substantially higher than the actual percentage distribution of citizens from this particular district (18.9%). 29.6% hail from the Northern Harbour district, 16.1% from the South Eastern district, 13.3% from the Northern district and 8.7% from the Western district.

The study also shows that given a viable alternative, most current applicants would opt out of social housing with 58.4% of applicants claiming they would consider buying their own property if the government helps them.

This report explores the reasons why social accommodation applicants resort to the need of applying for social housing instead of becoming homeowners. The most common impediment to buying a home is finding the money required for a deposit. In fact 51% of applicants are currently living in rented accommodation.

Two of every three respondents said they would consider living in a residential complex or a hostel managed by the Housing Authority if it had its own entrance, the required necessities and affordable rent. Considering the high interest in such initiatives, the report recommends that this should be one of the initiatives to be considered by the Housing Authority.

Moreover such arrangements may well encourage applicants to seek employment and educational opportunities because it would be easier to organise shared services like child care for individuals within the sample complex.