Social housing tenants face biggest hike in rent for more than a decade
'We're living in below humane conditions': ITV News Correspondent Dan Hewitt reports on the housing crisis still gripping the country - one year after ITV News' first report into squalid housing
Social housing tenants are facing the biggest increase to their rent in more than a decade, despite an ITV News investigation still finding families living in squalid, dangerous homes. The vast majority of councils and housing associations are raising rents by 4.1% in April, the maximum allowed by the government. The Local Government Association told ITV News the increase is needed to fund improvements to properties to ensure tenants are living in decent homes. Yet twelve months after our first report into squalid, dangerous social housing conditions we are still meeting tenants living in appalling conditions, who are now facing a 4.1% rent rise.
In Epsom, Louise Phillips lives with the daily torture of a leak in her kitchen.
The ceiling collapsed in August 2019, she reported it to her landlord L&Q but it wasn't fixed. Consistent complaints over the past two and a half years have led her nowhere, but earlier this month Louise received a letter telling her the rent would go up by around £20 per month.
Gerri Scott, L&Q Executive Director of Customer Services, told us: “We’re very sorry for the unacceptable living conditions in this home. We’ve apologised to Ms Phillips and have agreed to rehouse her temporarily whilst works take place to her home. “An order for a new kitchen and bathroom was placed on February 2 and we’ve chased the contractors to find out expected timescales. We will send someone to fix the toilet as soon as possible. “Whilst there have been some difficulties in contacting the resident to get things done, this does not excuse how long it has taken to put things right, and we will be carrying out an investigation to see how we could have dealt with this situation better. “We will keep Ms Phillips informed whilst we work to resolve the issues as a matter of urgency.”
ITV News Political Correspondent Dan Hewitt on whether we have seen any change in the 12 months since his first report into dangerous housing
L&Q are not alone in increasing their rent in April. The UK government limits how much councils and housing associations in England can increase social rent. This year its cap is 4.1% - the biggest increase in more than a decade. Research by ITV News suggests 89% of councils will raise it by the maximum amount, and the majority of housing associations are set to do the same. The Resolution Foundation estimates the rise will cost around 4.75 million families an average of £202 extra a year.
Suz Muna from the Social Housing Action Group (SHAC) says the rent increases will put further pressure on families already struggling, and housing providers should think again about such a big rise.
"There's massive potential for this problem to become extremely widespread," she told ITV News, "there's going to be huge numbers of people who end up defaulting on their payments and ending up in big arrears".
"They can't all be evicted. They can't all be put on the streets. Some of these will be families anyway. The councils will have a duty to house them. Other people will end up having to go into overcrowded, unsuitable accommodation.
"You can just see this problem snowballing massively," she added.
The Social Housing Action Group's Suz Muna says the problem of rising rents has potential to impact "huge numbers":
Croydon Council is one of the local authorities increasing rent by 4.1%.
Twelve months ago an ITV News investigation found council flats in squalid, dangerous conditions and met families forced to live in them. An independent inquiry later found tenants' health and safety were put at risk and their complaints had been ignored for years. I asked the leader of Croydon Council what had changed in the last 12 months, and why tenants should have to pay more rent to live in their properties.
Watch Daniel's interview with Hamida Ali, leader of Croydon Council, in full: