Low-income renters totally priced out of housing market, data shows

New figures shared with ITV News have shown that people who receive housing benefits can afford just 4% of the homes in the private rental sector. ITV News Investigations Correspondent Daniel Hewitt has the latest

Millions of private renters on low incomes are being almost totally priced out of the housing market, as new data shows just 4% of homes are affordable.

Research by Crisis and Zoopla shared exclusively with ITV News lays bare the near collapse of rent affordability for households receiving housing benefit to help pay their rent.

In some parts of the England, there are no affordable properties at all with the cost of rent outstripping incomes.

Around 1.9 million private renters in England receive housing benefit to help pay their rent. That’s more than one in three private renters.

New data shows they can now afford just 4% of homes in the private rental market, down by 66% from 12% last April.

It’s not difficult to work out why: private rents have skyrocketed while housing benefit isn’t keeping up.

Hollie Tyrrell is a doting, single mother to her one-year-old daughter Elsie. But motherhood hasn't been how she imagined it would be. Hollie is homeless because, despite receiving housing benefits, she cannot afford to privately rent in her home borough of Thanet, Kent. Hollie and Elsie sofa surf - currently they're staying on Hollie’s mother’s sofa.

"I feel like I'm not doing the job I'm meant to be doing as a parent, knowing that no matter where we stay, she's on the sofa.

“Normally, two weeks is about three to four properties, depending on who I’m with and how my daughter is reacting. If she’s not reacting well I’ll go to somewhere where she feels comfortable,” Ms Tyrrell says.

'In two weeks, there's about three to four properties': Young mum Holly Tyrrell has been moving from house to house with her baby due to steep rent prices

Local Housing Allowance rates - which set how much government help households receive to pay their rent - have been frozen since 2020, and therefore do not reflect the cost of rent today.

It means the gap between what’s coming in and what needs to go out simply doesn’t add up.

The data shows the shortfalls between housing benefit received and how much rent is actually costing have nearly doubled in a year.

For a one-bed property the shortfall is £1,300 per year, for a two-bed it’s £1,900 per year and for a three-bed home it is £2,900.

These are averages. In some areas the shortfalls are much higher.

Back to the 4% figure though, because in some areas fewer than 1% of properties are affordable, and it’s not just affluent areas of London.

In Barnsley just 0.9% of homes are affordable to a household receiving housing benefit. In Mansfield it is 0.8%; in Wigan it is 0.5%.

In the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, analysis shows 0% of homes are affordable.

Of the top 32 areas of England that are least affordable to rent for households receiving housing benefit, 28 have a Conservative MP and four have a Labour MP.

A lot is said about rising rent prices in London, but other cities have experienced big jumps in the last year.

In Manchester rents are up 14.4%, Nottingham and Birmingham 10.9%, Bristol 10.5% and Sheffield 10%.

Matt Downie, CEO of homelessness charity Crisis, calls for an injection of funding into the housing benefits system

This is all pointing towards a rise in homelessness. An ITV News investigation has found more people in full time work are becoming homeless, unable to find anywhere to live.

During 2022, 25% (72,790) of all households seeking homelessness support were in full or part-time employment.

Laurie and her husband Fred were looking forward to a quiet life in retirement but instead are facing homelessness after they received a no-fault eviction notice from their landlord of 12 years. 

Due to soaring rents in Coventry the couple have been placed in temporary accommodation by the council.

"I feel ashamed, I feel dirty although we have tried to clean it as much as we can.

"The monotony because you don’t have your own stuff around you and you can't do what you want to do. It's hard to get out because I've got my scooter and we can't park outside … I can't explain how bad it makes you feel," Laurie says.

'I feel ashamed': Laurie has been struggling to find good quality, affordable accommodation

A government spokesperson said: “We’re helping ease the pressure of rising rents by maintaining 2020’s £1 billion boost to Local Housing Allowance rates, giving more than a million people an extra £600 a year on average.

“We are set to spend over £30 billion on housing support this year, on top of significant cost of living support worth an average £3,300 per household.

“Building more affordable homes is key, which is why we’re investing £11.5 billion to deliver more social and affordable rented homes across the country.”

Coventry City Council said: “These issues are not just present in Coventry but are national issues regarding housing supply nationally, there are a number of factors contributing to this housing crisis including Local Housing Allowance being frozen nationally since 2020 putting an incredible pressure on families seeking private sector accommodation, the continuation of ‘no fault’ S21 evictions despite the government giving a commitment to address this area, as well as a general underinvestment in housing stock over many years.

“We have every sympathy for the Clark family being made homeless following the serving of a S21 ‘no fault’ notice by their landlord and the challenges they now face in moving to more settled accommodation which are as a result of the factors described above.

“Where issues are raised with the City Council in respect of temporary accommodation we take action and respond. In respect of this family one of our visiting officers has visited several times and today, 27 June 2023. The Clark family have previously been in contact with the Council regarding issues in relation to the property.

"Subsequently we made contact with the landlord who has undertaken a range of repairs including new back door, shower repairs, some redecoration and supplied a new mattress. We have had no reports of any infestations at the property.

“An Occupational Therapist has visited the family at the property earlier this month to ensure its suitability, however we recognise that the current property is not ideal and we would support the family to move to alternative temporary accommodation should this become available and our Occupational Therapist will also view any longer term properties with the Clark family to ensure suitability.”

If you would like to get in touch with the team about this story or other housing issues, please email housingstories@itv.com.

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