Housing

458,000 privately renting parents fear homelessness, say Shelter

Our Ride Out Recession Alliance partners have issued the stark warning even sacrificing food, visiting foodbanks and taking on debt “won’t be enough to avoid homelessness”

London, England, United Kingdom - February 11, 2015: FOR SALE and TO LET real estate agent signs outside residential housing development in Hackney. Many house rental and sales agency signs in a row. Multiple sign boards.

Nearly one in five private renting parents are more now more concerned that their family will become homeless following the financial fallout of the Covid-19 crisis, according to Shelter.

The housing charity’s new poll, carried out by YouGov, revealed that parents living in privately rented homes are almost twice as likely to be worried about ending up on the streets or in temporary accommodation than those living in secure social homes. The charity say that figures demonstrate just how precarious private renting can be and shows the stark difference that access to a stable social home can have.

There is still time to build a better future that benefits everyone and not just a lucky few

That is way the charity was one of the first members of our Ride Out Recession Alliance – the campaign The Big Issue launched earlier this month to prevent homelessness and protect jobs.

Both organisations are calling for a boost in the chronic lack of social housing that has been a driver of the housing crisis that has plagued the UK throughout successive governments. The shortage leaves struggling families with little option but to opt for the insecurity of private renting, where a third of parents (926,000 adults) feel more negative about their long-term housing situation.

And Shelter warn that even efforts to make ends meet could do little to prevent homelessness. The poll found 49,000 people have had to turn to foodbanks during lockdown while 429,000 have cut back on food and 550,000 have taken on debt to pay rent.

So far, the government has offered a stamp duty cut as a lifeline to make social homes more affordable but that will make no difference as 73 per cent of renting families have no savings at all according to government figures.

The charity’s chief executive Polly Neate said: “Families are going hungry and taking on risky debt to pay private rent, and yet for too many even these sacrifices won’t be enough to avoid homelessness. These parents need a way out of living hand to mouth, but so far, the government has offered them no alternative to private renting. This must change if we are ever going to build this country back better.

“As rescue and recovery packages roll in, the government needs to prioritise building safe homes that everyone can afford. Cuts to stamp duty are not a solution when you’re struggling to keep a roof over your head, and terrified of becoming homeless at the hands of this crisis. Many renting families will feel like they’ve been sold down the river without a paddle.

“But not all hope is lost. There is still time to build a better future that benefits everyone and not just a lucky few. The government can step in and show it cares about these families, by building social homes. Not in five or ten-years’ time, but now. By accelerating spending on social housebuilding, it can rapidly deliver the safe homes so many families are crying out for.”

People like Deborah, 54, are hoping for a social home. The cleaning manager and lives in Southport with her daughter. She was furloughed during the crisis and could face eviction. She has been relying on foodbanks to get by.

Deborah said: “My landlady keeps harassing me as she wants me out. I was furloughed, and I asked her if we could come to an agreement on the rent while we saw what happened. She went ballistic and demanded I pay it all. I’ve managed to keep paying in full but she’s still on at me to get out. You’re always one step away from eviction.

“When I’ve finished paying my rent and my bills, which are over £1,000, I’m left with £150 a month for food. I’m just working to pay the bills, that’s it.

“I’m not asking for handouts, I’m just asking for a decent and affordable place to live. I worry about becoming homeless 24/7, day in, day out.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government responded to Shelter’s study by pointing to their support package for renters which will “ensure no one is forced from their home this summer”.

“The Government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic,” the MHCLG spokesperson said. “We have put in place a support package to help prevent people getting into financial hardship or rent arrears and ensured no-one has been forced from their home this summer as a result of the pandemic. New court rules will also require landlords to set out information about a tenant’s circumstances in light of the pandemic when bringing a possession claim.

“Over the next five years Government will invest £12bn in affordable housing, the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade, delivering up to 180,000 new affordable homes. We’ve abolished the borrowing cap so councils can build more social homes.”

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