Over 450,000 private renting parents fear ‘Covid-homelessness’

By agency reporter
August 3, 2020

Nearly one in five (17 per cent) private renting parents – equivalent to 458,000 adults – are now more concerned their family will become homeless as a result of the Covid crisis, new research from Shelter shows. 

The new polling carried out by YouGov for Shelter, revealed parents living in privately rented homes are almost twice as likely to be worried about homelessness than parents living in secure social homes (nine per cent). This demonstrates just how precarious private renting is, and the stark difference that access to a stable social home can have.  

But as the country moves tentatively out of lockdown, the chronic lack of social housing has left struggling families with few options to escape the insecurity of private renting. In fact, a third of parents who rent from a private landlord (926,000 adults) feel more negative about their long-term housing situation. 

The housing charity’s research suggests this negative outlook and fears of homelessness are not unfounded for some private renting parents, with:  

  • 49,000 (two per cent) having to resort to using food banks since lockdown 
  • 429,000 (15 per cent) cutting back on food to help pay their rent since lockdown 
  • And 550,000 (20 per cent) taking on debt (such as overdrafts, credit cards, payday loans or borrowing money from the bank / family and friends) to help pay their rent since lockdown. 

Shelter is urging the government to give these hard-pressed families a way out of private renting, and the chance of a stable social home they can afford. So far, the government has only offered a stamp duty cut, which will be of no help to most renters who are ruled out of homeownership due to a lack of savings. The government’s own figures show that 73 per cent of private renting families have no savings at all. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, 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.”  

Deborah is a 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 £1000, I’m left with £150 a month for food. I’m just working to pay the bills, that’s it.    

“I’ve had to use foodbanks. There’s one at the end of my street. I’m trying my best to do everything I can to be a role model for my daughter but I’m rolling up at the food bank.  And it’s because I can’t get a decent, affordable place to rent.   

“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.” 

* Shelter England https://england.shelter.org.uk/


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