Housing

One million households at risk of homelessness

Shelter report finds a growing number of private renters at risk of homelessness as a result of housing benefit freeze and squeeze on social housing

Rising rents, a housing benefit freeze and shortage of social housing are causing a perfect storm in the private rented sector, according to housing body Shelter.

In fact, the charity’s latest report finds more than one million private renters are at risk of homelessness by 2020.

The biggest problem ahead is the increasingly commonplace shortfall between housing benefit and the cost of private renting.

Among the one million households across the UK identified by Shelter as vulnerable to hardship, 375,000 have one person in work.

Shelter has called for the freeze on housing benefit levels to be lifted.

“As the social rented sector contracts, private housing may have replaced it as the main tenure for people in housing need,” the report states.

“But the market’s limitations mean that significant government intervention is needed if it is to play an expanded role in preventing homelessness and housing people on low incomes.”

Multiple moves, the repeated costs of fees, deposits and rent in advance can pull them further into debt

The shortfall in rent is causing many people to fall into debt. And although the government has now pledge to ban letting fees, many are struggling to cope with fees and large rental deposits as they try to move move elsewhere.

“For households experiencing multiple moves, the repeated costs of fees, deposits and rent in advance can pull them further into debt,” according to Shelter. “Our advice services tell us that private landlords are increasingly asking for guarantors, who can be difficult for low-income households to secure.”

Lord John Bird said the government should treat the housing crisis as “the nation’s biggest issue.” He recommended all government owned surplus land being used for a new generation of social housing to ease pressure on the private rental market.

“I wouldn’t allow the NHS, councils or the army to sell its surplus property – I would say it has to go to social housing,” he said. “I would also appoint a dedicated secretary of state for housing, not someone who has 10 other portfolios, so that social housing is not left to the vagaries of local authorities.

“There’s a lot of interesting stuff done in Finland where you can put a house together for £30,000 – a kind of much improved prefab.”

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