Private renters who need a social home are skipping meals to get by

Shelter research found that nine out of 10 renters end up stuck on council waiting lists, like 500,000 people last year

More than 600,000 parents are forced to cut back on food to keep up with their private rental costs as they are left on council house waiting lists.

Shelter’s latest study into the plight facing renters found that nine out of 10 private tenants are left playing the waiting game, often for years, in their bid to secure a social home.

That means that nearly 500,000 privately renting households were on council waiting lists while less than 43,000 moved into a council home in that time.

And the housing charity warned that the figures, derived from government data, may not paint the full picture. Shelter warn that since councils were able to independently decide the eligibility criteria for their own lists from 2011, thousands could even be locked out from getting on the lists in the first place.

But, even without accounting for those additional renters, the lack of social homes is still hitting hard. Just 6,434 social rent homes were delivered last year while 21,500 were lost through sales, conversions and demolitions. That’s well short of the 90,000 social homes that Shelter insist are required every year to reverse successive governments’ consistent failure to build enough homes.

“When 9 in 10 private renters who need a social home aren’t getting one, alarm bells should be ringing,” said the charity’s chief executive Polly Neate. “But when this means parents are forced to skip meals just to pay their rent then clearly we need to take action now.

“Decades of failure to build social housing has created a nightmare scenario with people trapped in private renting all over the country. On top of living on the breadline, far too many are facing the threat of eviction or battling poor conditions.

“To save struggling renters from a lifetime of instability, social housing must be at the heart of every party’s manifesto during the election. We are calling on all parties to commit to delivering at least 90,000 social rent homes a year over the next parliament, to give everyone in this country a fighting chance of a stable home.”


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A YouGov study for Shelter showed the impact of the lack of social homes was having on private renters – with 21 per cent – or 1.8 million people – constantly struggling to pay their rent and 14 per cent of parents forced to skip meals to try and keep up.

A further 18 per cent were forced to cut back on heating their home.

And with rent accounting for 41 per cent of income, on average, it is clear why people are being pushed into poverty.

Shelter Kim
Kim (centre) and her family have been hit hard by failing to find a social home

That is the case for Kim, 35, who lives in the South West with her three children – Sasha (15) who is disabled, Joshua (10) and George (3). They are currently struggling in expensive and insecure private renting after being stuck on different social housing waiting lists for more than a decade.

“My daughter Sasha is severely disabled, and the council says there are no social homes available that meet our needs, so our only option is to stay on the list, carry on renting privately and hope against the odds that something becomes free,” she said.

“Being stuck in private renting is a nightmare for my family. On top of all the insecurity, renting privately is a massive financial drain. Obviously rent always comes first, but then my children miss out. Sometimes, I have to spend the money meant for Sasha’s therapies on paying rent, we’ve had to cut back on food and days trips are out of the question.”