Lime Legal

Tenants in trouble

Published 15 September 2023

New research shows that private renters are at the sharp end of the affordability crisis, reports Liam Reynolds

Proportion of people struggling the most with housing costs (Click for larger view)

The media and the world of politics are dominated by the growing financial problems of first-time buyers and homeowners facing repossession.

But a new survey by Shelter shows that they are not the biggest victims of the affordability crisis. Young private renters and single parents – at least two million households – are suffering even more.

A YouGov survey of 5,681 adults in England, Scotland and Wales, commissioned for Shelter’s Now is the Time campaign, found that private tenants are the hardest hit. Almost a quarter spend more than 50 per cent of their income on rent and seven in 10 have to make sacrifices – spending less on other daily necessities – to cover their housing costs.

Additional analysis of the survey identifies the highest risk group as households with a level of income among the lowest two-fifths, who are paying more than 30 per cent of it on housing, and admit that they are struggling or falling behind with their rent or mortgage payments.

Almost 10 per cent of the population – more than two million households – fall into this group of households confronting the worst aspect of the housing affordability crisis.

Nearly a third (31 per cent) of full-time students were also found to be among this group. People whose marital status was ‘separated’ were also disproportionately likely to appear in it (21 per cent).

Many renters who took part in the survey said they were being forced to stay in cramped or poorly maintained homes because it was all they could afford. Some 42 per cent felt they were being ripped off because of high housing costs, compared with an all-tenure average of 23 per cent. Half of all private rented homes in England fail to meet government decent homes standards.

The charts (right) show the demographics for households in the highest housing risk groups and highlight the types of household most likely to be facing the most extreme housing affordability pressure.

The survey examined the extent to which people were struggling with housing costs. Where they were claiming housing benefit, this was treated as income spent on housing, in line with the spirit of housing benefit reform. This meant that many people claiming housing benefit appeared in the groups paying a high proportion of income on housing.

No one doubts the pressures on mortgage payers and the stress and pain of repossession cannot be understated. However, as this analysis shows, it is the less newsworthy groups – the young, private renters and single parents – who are most likely to be facing an immediate housing affordability crisis.