More than a third of furloughed private renters are worried about being able to pay their rent when the coronavirus lockdown ends, according to new research published today by the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
This means around 250,000 people in this group could be in a position where they struggle to meet their housing costs when the lockdown ends.
The research, based on a sample of 1,031 private renters in a YouGov survey of 6,430 UK adults, demonstrates the precarious situation faced by many households who are renting privately.
Whilst the changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme announced last week seek to mitigate a rise in unemployment when the current arrangements end in July, it remains likely that more workers will lose their jobs in the coming months and not be able to pay their rent.
This new research indicates that if that happens, large numbers of people could need to rely on the social security system for support with their housing costs for the first time.
The government recently temporarily increased the amount of support private renters can get for their housing costs, known as Local Housing Allowance (LHA) up to the cheapest 30% of local market rents. This was a step in the right direction, but for many it still leaves a big gap between the support available and the real cost of renting, especially in areas with high rents where an overall cap prevents households from getting the support they need to meet their housing costs. Renters in a two-bedroom property who were eligible for all their rent to be covered would see a gap of around £150 a month in Brighton, £100 a month in Central Manchester, York and Cambridge and around £80 a month in Liverpool. In some Central London boroughs this gap would be £1,715 a month.
JRF is calling for an increase in LHA to cover median rents in all areas, as well as the removal of the national cap on the amount of LHA that can be paid, so that it does not limit support in high-cost areas.
JRF’s research found that in the private rented sector as a whole, a quarter of all private renters are worried about paying their rent. For households with children this rises to 31%. 42% of private renters have already seen their income decrease due to the impact of coronavirus.
The temporary ban on evictions introduced by government is currently in place until the end of June, and there are fears of a surge in eviction proceedings if it is not extended, as large numbers of tenants will no longer be able to afford their rent. This could unravel the considerable progress the government has made by housing thousands of homeless people, as high housing costs are a significant driver of homelessness.
Commenting on the findings, Darren Baxter, Policy & Partnerships Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:
“Renters are really worried about not being able to pay the rent, both right now and in the future when the lockdown ends, particularly those who’ve been furloughed. The furlough scheme has been a lifeline during the pandemic, but it will not save every job, and many private renters who are let go by their employer will need to turn to the social security system for help with housing costs.
“The government has temporarily increased housing benefit levels to the lowest third of local rents, but this still falls well short of what is needed for the typical renter to pay their rent. As a country we believe in looking after each other when times get tough. To achieve this the government should increase Local Housing Allowance rates to cover median local rents, and lift the national cap so that renters in all areas of the country will get the lifeline they need to stay afloat and keep their homes.”