Shelter reveals life in ‘limbo’ for majority of private renters in need of a social home

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AN overwhelming majority or private renters in England who need a social home are trapped out waiting lists, often for years on end, according to new research from a homelessness charity.

Shelter claims that 91% are stuck in this ‘limbo’, waiting for a home they can more readily afford, while maintaining a precarious grip on more expensive private rented homes.

The charity analysed the latest government data and from that claims there were nearly 500,000 privately renting households on council waiting lists last year, but fewer than 43,000 private renters moved into a social rent home during that same period.

What’s more, Shelter suggests the true scale of need among private renters is probably far greater than these figures suggest. Since 2011, councils have been able to decide the eligibility criteria for their own waiting lists with many insisting people must have a long-standing connection to the local area to qualify, meaning thousands cannot even get on the list in the first place.

Shelter is clear about the root of the problem: decades of failure to build new social homes. Just 6,434 social rent homes were delivered last year, but 21,500 were lost through sales, conversions, and demolitions. Consequently, people have become “effectively trapped in expensive private renting”.

In a YouGov study carried out on its behalf, Shelter also sought to explore the day-to-day impact this is having on people’s lives. It shows that 21% of private renters (1.8 million people) are “constantly struggling” or “falling behind” with their rent. Children and families are not immune. Some of the extreme lengths parents are going to in order to keep on top of housing costs, include:

  • 24% cutting back on food (equivalent to over 600,000 parents)
  • 18% cutting back on heating their home (equivalent to more than 450,000 parents)
  • 14% skipping meals completely (equivalent to 350,000 parents)

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

“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.”

According to Shelter’s research there is a 20% chance of private renters on council waiting lists gaining a social rent home; in the North West it’s a 9% chance, in the Yorkshire & Humber region their chances are put at 11%.



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