May 18, 2024

Are single mums being priced out of housing?

But this type of discrimination is more common than you’d think. Research by Single Parent Rights found that 26% of single parents reported experiencing discrimination in accessing housing, with 42%  being left in unsuitable housing as a result. The vast majority of this was in private rental properties where single parents reported being discriminated against both for their single-parent status and (for some) for their reliance on housing benefits.

This is something Kristina, 42, a single parent living in London, has experienced firsthand. Kristina was living with a friend when she fell pregnant with her child. “There must have been something in the water,” she says, “because my friend also fell pregnant at the same time. ” Given the news, her friend, who owned the flat they were living in, decided to sell up and move in with her partner. Sadly, this meant that Kristina, who didn’t have a partner, would need to find somewhere new to live.

“I kept looking, but I couldn’t find anywhere because no one would have me because I was pregnant,” she says. “I even tried single rooms, and they said no because I was going to have a baby. It was constant rejections. ”

Kristina, a self-employed therapist, attempted to go through the council, but unfortunately, the social worker she was assigned seemed preoccupied. “Nothing got done; it was awful”. She wanted to access the council’s Find Your Own scheme, which gives people financial aid, such as the first month’s rent and deposit, while they find their own property to live in. “I thought, I have six months until I give birth, I have time, I can do this,” she recalls. “But because everything was so delayed, I only had five days until my due date when something was finally done. ”

Kristina spent the best part of her pregnancy sofa surfing with friends, eventually settling in a friend’s flat, where she paid rent. But she didn’t have long: “my friend was leaving that flat a month later, so I still needed to find somewhere,” she says. By the time she was giving birth, Kristina had nowhere to go. “I think the stress of this whole situation is what led to me needing an emergency caesarean,” she says. She was able to convince the hospital to let her stay another night so that she wouldn’t be left stranded in the January cold with a newborn baby on a Sunday night. Thankfully, another friend offered her a place to stay. “I’m so grateful, but it was far from ideal,” she says. “I was living out of a suitcase with a newborn who didn’t even have a cot. ”

In the first four months of her baby’s life, she responded to 3,000 adverts and got just 10 responses – only two of which were successful. “Eight of them, I got told no because I was a single mum and I was on housing benefits,” says Kristina. Even though No DSS Policies (when an agent refuses to rent to anyone who gets universal credit, housing benefit, disability benefits or tax credits) and no kids policies are banned, it’s rarely enforced.

“The stigma facing single mums is leaving them and their children without one of their basic needs. ”

“The only method of redress for people in this situation is taking the landlord or agent to court,” explains Anny Cullum, policy lead at the renters union Acorn. “But this takes a lot of time, effort, resources and mental energy, and landlords know that, by and large, most people don’t have time to do that, so they can get away with it. ”

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