Today in a groundbreaking new report, Shelter is calling on the government to dramatically increase its building of genuinely affordable housing with a new generation of Fair Rent Homes for working families who are desperately struggling to keep up.
On top of the welcome pledge of 25,000 new council homes announced at Conservative Party Conference, Shelter says more are urgently needed and the invitation to rent an affordable home must also be extended up the income scale to address the breadth and depth of the problem.
Releasing new research with YouGov showing 44% of low paid renters cut back on basics like food, clothing and toys for their children to pay for their home, Shelter says young working people and families who are just managing to keep their heads above water also need the government’s help.
Shelter is calling for a massive boost to affordable housing, with half a million Fair Rent Homes being built for low earners, in addition to half a million council homes for those in the greatest need – one million homes for people who are struggling over the next ten years.
With rents tied to local incomes, Fair Rent Homes would help low to middle earners, typically working in jobs such as care home staff, hairdressers, security guards, factory workers and sales representatives. This group cannot get a council house but cannot keep up with market rent either, due their low incomes. They are essentially trapped.
Worryingly, the Shelter research also shows that one in ten workers on low wages also fall behind on other payments such as gas and electricity bills or council tax so they can pay their rent.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “No parent should have to choose between buying school clothes or paying their rent. But far too many families are feeling shame and anxiety as they are forced to make impossible decisions just to keep a roof over their children’s heads.
“This report reveals the true scale of housebuilding this country needs. Despite slogging every hour they can, huge numbers of people are struggling to keep up with colossal private rents. And with next to no chance of getting a council home, they are trapped and are forced into dangerous debt.
“It’s good to see the government investing in council housing for those hit hardest by the housing crisis but there are millions more low paid renters only just scraping by, who also need help. Only investing in a new generation of Fair Rent Homes will give these families the chance of a stronger and more secure future.”
Case study: Nadine from Wokingham works two jobs to pay her rent of £950 per month, in sales and as a health consultant. But every month she still struggles to pay for the roof over her daughter’s head.
She says: “Until my daughter turned 16 recently, I cut back on an awful lot of clothes for her. I only managed to buy two new shirts and one from a charity shop to keep her in a school uniform – she wore the rest for the entire time she was there. I used to glue her school shoes back together myself, but managed to replace them once when the hole in the sole was so big that her socks got soaked when it rained.
“We haven’t had a holiday for three years – not even a weekend away. Her school trips were her holidays and they were only paid for by tight budgeting, and my daughter’s own savings. I don’t want her life chances spoilt by a housing crisis which takes all my money. I would rather go without things like food and clothes for myself than have her miss out on things other children do.”