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Housing

Private renters are spending £11bn a year more than they can afford on rent

Shelter’s latest research reveals “the real cost of renting” with families forking out £425 a month more than they can reasonably pay to keep a roof over their head

Homelessness charity Shelter are claiming to have uncovered the “real cost of renting” after revealing that England’s private renters pay £11 billion more than they can afford on rent.

That amounts to £425 a month per household, the charity said after analysing government data on private rent and incomes.

With rent eating up 41 per cent of income – widely accepted measures of affordability say rent should take up no more than 30 per cent – 2.2 million households are being forced to scramble just to keep a roof over their head.

As ever, people on lower incomes are hardest-hit, accounting for 37 per cent of the £11bn collective overspend.

“Hugely unaffordable rents are dominating daily life for millions of people, forcing them to rely on costly credit cards or borrow what they can from family and friends,” said Shelter chief executive Polly Neate. “Our services see the real cost of private renting, which is leaving parents struggling to put food on the table or turn the heating on, while also keeping a roof over their children’s heads.

“When someone is forced to spend hundreds more than they can afford on rent each month, it’s clear that private renting isn’t working for everyone.

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“Boosting social housebuilding is the only way to end the housing emergency, which is why the new government must deliver at least 90,000 social rent homes a year over the next parliament. Housing is an important issue for renters and all politicians must take note.”

A YouGov study that builds on the Shelter figures showed the impact that unaffordable rents have on families, demonstrating how they make ends meet.

Just under a quarter of the people surveyed had to borrow from their friends or family in the last year while a further quarter – or 580,000 parents – used a credit card, which can lead to people falling into spiralling debts.

These figures are familiar tale for Penny Stirling, husband Garrett and eight-month-old son Daniel. The family struggle to pay their monthly £1,400 bill for their one-bed flat in Richmond with Garrett’s job doing maintenance at a major UK airport. Penny worked in a care home before staying at home to take care of Daniel.

“We’re paying £1,400 a month to live in a one-bedroom flat that has damp and mould, which takes up most of our income,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem fair. We’d love to move out and find somewhere more affordable but that that would mean moving as far as Bracknell  – my husband would have a long commute to work, but we’re seriously considering it.

“We want to work and be productive members of society, but at the moment, we’re not seeing the reward. I haven’t got a clue how people worse off than us even feed their families.

“My mum’s actually come out of retirement as a carer so that she can help us financially. Without her, we’d have no money for essentials like clothing for our baby. We must be one of millions of families in this boat – struggling to pay rent and barely getting by.”

Image: Yuki Mok

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