Over 450,000 private renting parents fear ‘Covid-homelessness’

Posted 30 Jul 2020

Nearly one in five (17%) private renting parents – equivalent to 458,000 adults - are now more concerned their family will become homeless as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, new research from Shelter shows. 

The new polling carried out by YouGov for Shelter, revealed parents living in privately rented homes are almost twice as likely to be worried about homelessness than parents living in secure social homes (9%). This demonstrates just how precarious private renting is, and the stark difference that access to a stable social home can have.  

But as the country moves tentatively out of lockdown, the chronic lack of social housing has left struggling families with few options to escape the insecurity of private renting. In fact, a third of parents who rent from a private landlord (926,000 adults) feel more negative about their long-term housing situation. 

The housing charity’s research suggests this negative outlook and fears of homelessness are not unfounded for some private renting parents, with:  

  • 49,000 (2%) having to resort to using food banks since lockdown 

  • 429,000 (15%) cutting back on food to help pay their rent since lockdown 

  • And 550,000 (20%) taking on debt (such as overdrafts, credit cards, payday loans or borrowing money from the bank / family & friends) to help pay their rent since lockdown. 

Shelter is urging the government to give these hard-pressed families a way out of private renting, and the chance of a stable social home they can afford. So far, the government has only offered a stamp duty cut, which will be of no help to most renters who are ruled out of homeownership due to a lack of savings. The government’s own figures show that 73% of private renting families have no savings at all. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Families are going hungry and taking on risky debt to pay private rent, and yet for too many even these sacrifices won’t be enough to avoid homelessness. These parents need a way out of living hand to mouth, but so far, the government has offered them no alternative to private renting. This must change if we are ever going to build this country back better.  

“As rescue and recovery packages roll in, the government needs to prioritise building safe homes that everyone can afford. Cuts to stamp duty are not a solution when you’re struggling to keep a roof over your head, and terrified of becoming homeless at the hands of this crisis. Many renting families will feel like they’ve been sold down the river without a paddle.  

“But not all hope is lost. There is still time to build a better future that benefits everyone and not just a lucky few. The government can step in and show it cares about these families, by building social homes. Not in five or ten-years’ time, but now. By accelerating spending on social housebuilding, it can rapidly deliver the safe homes so many families are crying out for.”  

Deborah, 54, is a cleaning manager and lives in Southport with her daughter. She was furloughed during the crisis and couldface eviction. She has been relying on foodbanks to get by.

Deborah said:“My landlady keeps harassing me as she wants me out. I was furloughed, and I asked her if we could come to an agreement on the rent while we saw what happened. She went ballistic and demanded I pay it all. I’ve managed to keep paying in full but she’s still on at me to get out. You’re always one step away from eviction.   

“When I’ve finished paying my rent and my bills, which are over £1000, I’m left with £150 a month for food. I’m just working to pay the bills, that’s it.    

“I’ve had to use foodbanks. There’s one at the end of my street. I’m trying my best to do everything I can to be a role model for my daughter but I’m rolling up at the food bank.  And it’s because I can’t get a decent, affordable place to rent.   

“I’m not asking for handouts, I’m just asking for a decent and affordable place to live. I worry about becoming homeless 24/7, day in, day out.” 

ENDS 

Notes to editors:

  • All survey results are based on a YouGov survey of 1,058 private renters in England, online, 16+, weighted to be representative of England’s private renters using official statistics, fieldwork 4th June to 11th June 2020. 322 of this sample had children living in the household, and the results in this release are based on this group. 504 Social renters also completed the survey, 145 of whom had children living in their household.

  • The estimated number of parents is calculated by Shelter using the survey results in conjunction with population estimates from the last available household type by tenure data from the English Housing Survey, MHCLG, 2018-19. Table AT1.3 in the Headline Report, Household tables section, shows that in private rented housing there are approximately 2.775 million parents of dependent children living in the household, and this is the basis for all estimated numbers of parents/ adults in this press release.

  • The proportion of private rented households with dependent children who have no savings (73%) is taken from English Housing Survey, MHCLG, Annex Table 2.12: Savings by tenure and household type, 2018-19 and is the proportion among couples with dependent children and lone parents with dependent children.

  • The table below show all results and question wordings for the results used in this press release:

QuestionBased on%Estimated number of people (with dependent children in household)
The Coronavirus outbreak, and the impact I think it will have/ it has had on the country and me personally has...made me worry more about becoming homeless 322 people renting privately and with children in the household who answered strongly agree or tend to agree 17%457,888
The Coronavirus outbreak, and the impact I think it will have/ it has had on the country and me personally has...made me worry more about becoming homeless 145 people social renting and with children in the household who answered strongly agree or tend to agree9%172,873
The Coronavirus outbreak, and the impact I think it will have/ it has had on the country and me personally has...made me feel more negative about my housing situation in the longer term322 people renting privately and with children in the household who answered strongly agree or tend to agree33%926,320
Which, if any, of the following have you sacrificed/ done in order to enable you to keep up with any rental payments since mid-March 2020: used a foodbank322 people renting privately and with children in the household2%48,564
Which, if any, of the following have you sacrificed/ done in order to enable you to keep up with any rental payments since mid-March 2020: Cut back on food for myself/ partner322 people renting privately and with children in the household 15%429,027
Which, if any, of the following have you sacrificed/ done in order to enable you to keep up with any rental payments since mid-March 2020 : Borrowed money from parents OR Borrowed money from friends/ other family OR Borrowed from bank or building society OR Borrowed from credit card OR Borrowed from payday loan OR Borrowed from overdraft322 people renting privately and with children in the household20%549,520

Source: YouGov survey of 1,058 private renters in England, online, 16+, weighted to be representative of England’s private renters using official statistics, fieldwork 4th June to 11th June 2020. 322 of this sample had children living in the household, and the results in this release are based on this group. 504 Social renters also completed the survey, 145 of whom had children living in their household.