Nearly half of private renters ‘one pay check away from losing home’, research finds

Three million households would not be able to afford more than one month’s rent if they lost their job, survey by housing charity Shelter suggests

Ben Chapman
Thursday 19 September 2019 16:42 BST
Six in 10 working families could not afford more than one month’s rent if they were made redundant
Six in 10 working families could not afford more than one month’s rent if they were made redundant

Almost half of working private renters in England could not afford to pay their rent for more than a month if they lost their job, housing charity Shelter has found.

Among working families with children the figure rises to 60 per cent or 760,000 households. The majority of these, 550,000, would not even be able to afford the first month’s rent and so would immediately fall into arrears after losing their job.

In total, the research suggests that there are nearly 3 million private renters who could be just “one pay check away from losing their home”.

Shelter quoted a 44-year-old single parent who said: “I work two jobs but I’m still in a precarious position. If for some reason I lost my job, I worry how quickly we’d end up homeless.

“I can’t afford to save even £10 a month – everything goes. Life is hard, but I know it’s the same for thousands of other people like me.”

Under UK property law, landlords can in many cases apply for a court order to evict a tenant as soon as a rent payment is missed.

“Millions of working people are now caught in an endless cycle of paying grossly expensive private rents they can barely afford,” said Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter.

“Many are terrified that even a short-term dip in income could result in them losing their home for good.”

Shelter’s findings echo the government’s own data which shows that 63 per cent of private renting households have no savings at all and spend an average of 41 per cent of their monthly income on rent.

“Warm words and piecemeal policies will not solve this deepening crisis,” said Ms Neate.

“The only way politicians can fix what has gone so wrong is with a clear commitment from every party to deliver 3 million more social homes over the next 20 years.”

In July, an influential committee of MPs accused the government of squandering a “unique opportunity” to alleviate Britain’s housing crisis.

Citing government figures, the Public Accounts Committee said that only 40,500 homes have been built on the swathes of public land sold off by the government since 2011 when the first of two land-for-housing programmes started.

Even that number is inflated, the PAC noted. Once pre-existing homes that have simply been transferred to the private sector and those on land sold before 2011 are discounted, the result is just 23,721 new homes.

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