Shelter wants an all-parties election manifesto commitment to delivering at least 90,000 social rent homes a year over the next parliament, as the charity releases new stats showing as many as nine in ten private renters now face the years on end limbo of waiting lists.
The charity’s analysis of the latest government data shows 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.
And worryingly, the true scale of need among private renters is probably far greater than these figures suggest, with Shelter citing evidence of many cutting back on food or skipping meals completely.
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,” said Shelter chief executive Polly Neate.
“When 9 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.
“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.
Just 6,434 social rent homes were delivered last year, but 21,500 were lost through sales, conversions and demolitions.
A YouGov study for Shelter shows that 21% of private renters (1.8m) are constantly struggling or falling behind with their rent.
Children and families are not immune.
The survey cites some of the extreme lengths parents are going to in order to keep on top of housing costs, including:
- 24% cutting back on food (equivalent to over 600,000 parents)
- 14% skipping meals completely (equivalent to 350,000 parents)
- 18% cutting back on heating their home (equivalent to more than 450,000 parents)
Shelter sets these stats against official stats showing private renters shell out on average 41% of their income on rent – making it more expensive than any other type of housing.
Catherine Ryder, NHF Director of Policy and Research, said the research shows, yet again, the detrimental impact of a lack of funding for social rented homes.
“Despite housing associations efforts to continue funding these homes themselves, the delivery of new homes at social rents has fallen by a staggering 84% since 2011.
And because of this, thousands of low income families are having to make impossible choices to keep a roof over their heads, forced to live in private rented homes they cannot afford or face homelessness,” said Ryder.
And NHF maintains the government’s social housing waiting list is just the tip of the iceberg.
“We found there were in fact 3.6m people in need of social housing last yea,” said Ryder.
“In order to house these people the next government must make a serious commitment to social housing, investing £12.8bn each year for the next ten years.
This would be enough to build 145,000 homes each year, including 90,000 for social rent,” said.
Case study: “We haven’t had a house that feels like a home for years”
Kim, 35, lives in the South West with her three children – Sasha (15), Joshua (10) and George (3).
Severely disabled Sasha has lived in 14 different houses during her lifetime.
Kim has had to spend sums intended for Sasha’s therapies to cover rent.
“We haven’t had a house that feels like a home for years,” she says.
The family is currently struggling in expensive and insecure private renting after being stuck on different social housing waiting lists for more than a decade.
And the council says there are no social homes available that meet the family’s needs, so the only option is to stay on the list, carry on renting privately and hope against the odds that something becomes free.
“Last year, we were living a bungalow but were evicted when the landlord needed to sell – knowing that could easily happen again is terrifying,” said Kim.
“On top of all the insecurity, renting privately is a massive financial drain.
“Obviously rent always comes first, but then my children miss out.
Sometimes, I have to spend the money meant for Sasha’s therapies on paying rent, we’ve had to cut back on food and days trips are out of the question.
“What I’d really love is a home I can afford and suits Sasha’s needs, and somewhere my children can finally feel settled,” says Kim.