Families must choose to 'buy food or pay the rent'

Average rents are now unaffordable for working families in more than half of English local authorities, according to housing charity Shelter.

The charity's Rent Watch reveals that, in the majority of local authorities, typical rents from private landlords are more than a third of average take-home pay, the widely accepted measure of affordability.

Unsurprisingly London boroughs are the most expensive, with the average rent for a two-bedroom home standing at £1,360. The least affordable local authority area outside London is Oxford, where typical rents account for 55 per cent of average earnings.

Recent research by Shelter showed that 38 per cent of families with children who are renting privately have been forced to cut down on buying food to pay their rent.

"There are worrying signs that families are likely to be displaced by our out-of-control rental market," warns Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter. "Over recent years we have seen more and more people forced into renting, as high house prices and a lack of social housing have made it the only option for thousands of ordinary families."

He called on Government to take action to address the renting crisis. "It must urgently consider how private renting can become a stable, affordable option for families, and not a heavy financial burden that makes parents choose between buying food for and paying the rent."

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