In her explanation of the Government’s obligations for housing in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Elinor Chisolm explains what the right to secure occupancy should mean:
Everyone needs not just a house, but a home, regardless of whether they want or can afford to buy one. We need to adjust our laws so that a tenant, if they want to, can make a home, and establish relationships with their neighbours, their local school, a doctor. They can settle in, for 6 months, for a year, for many years, and feel at home, relieved from the anxiety of the threat of upheaval when the landlord arbitrarily gives a 90 or 45 day notice.
For many tenants – especially those in low-paid casual work or on benefits – the insecurity of their housing is not just related to the whether their landlords exert their “right” to end the tenancy but also to their ability to make their rent when pressure comes on their finances. Under such circumstances parents have often have little choice but to move.
Education unions and the Child Poverty Action Group have a particular concern about the effect that constantly moving around has on education:
“We must address the causes of [educational] transience by introducing housing policies that actively address the shortage of secure, affordable housing in areas where low-income families live.”
A tenants’ union could work with schools and other community institutions to tackle these issues in communities. For example, it could campaign to extend tenancy periods (or notice periods) for families with school age children so no family was required to move during the school year and could support tenants who are struggling with their rent without them having to resort to either abandoning their home or surcumbing to loansharks – both legal and illegal.