Only half of private renters feel safe in their home during the pandemic

Posted 06 Oct 2020

A major new report by Shelter has today exposed the ugly truth of the housing crisis, with only half (51%) of private renters in England saying their home has made them feel safe during the pandemic. 

Calling on the Chancellor to act now to save the nation’s homes, the charity’s Building Our Way Out report outlines how a disastrous lack of social homes across the country has plunged England into a housing emergency, which is only intensifying as Covid-19 puts unprecedented pressure on those in poor housing.  

According to YouGov polling carried out for the report, 25% of private renting adults - equivalent to 2.1 million people - said their housing situation made lockdown harder to cope with. Private tenants are in fact twice as likely to have struggled than tenants in secure social homes (13%). 

With grim predictions on what lies ahead, Shelter is warning the government’s existing provision for delivering new social homes is woefully inadequate. There is currently only enough funding set aside to provide one social home for every 96 households on the waiting list. And with a swelling housing benefit bill forecast to hit £24 billion per year by 2024/25 - that does not account for the impact of the pandemic - it is urging the Chancellor to intervene. By introducing a rescue package of investment in social housebuilding, Shelter argues the government could provide thousands with a safe home.    

The charity’s research demonstrates just how badly decent, affordable social homes are needed, as too many private renters continue to spend the pandemic stuck in poor-quality, expensive and overcrowded accommodation: 

  • 1.6 million (19%) of adult private renters are constantly struggling with their rent or are already falling behind.

  • 3 million (35%) live in poor conditions, with electrical hazards, pests or damp-related issues in their home.

  • 3.6 million (43%) say they pay too much for the quality of home they have.

  • 2.4 million (29%) say a lack of indoor living space made lockdown harder.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Our homes are our first line of defence in this pandemic. But millions have spent months trapped in private rentals they do not trust to keep them safe. And right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  

“After decades of decline, a dire lack of social homes means too many people, pay too much for cramped and poor-quality housing. Or worse yet they find themselves with nowhere to live. With the stakes so high, the case for building decent social homes is clear.”  

Shelter’s report calls for a targeted rescue package of £12.2 billion over the next two years to fund a total of 50,000 new social homes, out of a total of 145,000 new affordable homes. These 50,000 new social homes equate to almost four times the number of social homes currently delivered each year. Funding this programme could kickstart the post Covid recovery and reverse years of decline in social housebuilding. 

Polly Neate continued: “Before a thundercloud of homelessness breaks over us, the Chancellor needs to be as swift and bold on housing as we’ve seen him be on jobs. By turbocharging investment in social housing today, we can build ourselves out of this pandemic and lay the foundations of a better future.”     

Michelle, 58, is a store manager living in Hereford with her son. She was diagnosed with a serious and life-limiting condition in February of this year and has been shielding throughout the pandemic. In July after just four months in her home, she was served with a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice by her landlord because he wanted to sell the property.  

Michelle said: “I feel so tired of the renting game. When you’re in your late 50’s like me, even on a good wage there’s no way you can get a mortgage. So, you’re left with private renting.   

“I was diagnosed with severe Vasculitis in February this year, and then in July, after only four months in my home, my landlord gave me an eviction notice because he wanted to sell. I was in shock. I had to look for a new home while I was highly vulnerable and shielding.       

“If I could live in a social home, it would give me such peace of mind that I won’t have to move every six months. It would mean I could unpack, put things up on the wall, have a cat. Just little things in life that would make such a big difference. All I can do now is put my pictures on the hooks the landlord has left. It sounds really basic, but it is part of wanting to make a home.” 


Notes to editors:

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 5,177 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th - 7th September 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all England adults (aged 18+).

  • The percentage results in the survey have been converted into the number of people in a household using the detailed data from 2017-18 English Housing Survey (EHS) – which gives an estimate of population per tenure – uprated in line with the headline 2018-19 EHS results to reflect a further year’s population growth.

  • Private renters living in poor conditions has been calculated using our own analysis of those experiencing any of damp, condensation, leaking roof or windows, an electrical hazard, mould or pest infestation.

  • Private renters saying they pay too much for housing given the quality of their home is calculated using the number of adults in the household. Using the same approach detailed above.

  • Savills analysis of Shelter’s affordable housing investment proposals ‘Macroeconomic Benefits of Social Housing Funding (September 2020) compares the impact of our proposals for the 2021-2025 Affordable Homes Programme (AHP), and changes in the mix of affordable tenures produced, with the current government proposals for the AHP

  • Savills results are ‘net’ of what is expected under existing AHP proposals. Therefore, the 173,100 produced under Shelter’s investment proposals are in addition to what is expected to be built under current AHP plans.

  • Shelter has used the average number of adults per household (1.6 - based on English Housing Survey 2017-18) to estimate how many people are waiting for each social home built. This analysis uses Savills estimated number of social homes that will be built under government proposals (equating to 20% of current funding proposed in the AHP), and divides that by the number of households on the waiting list. Shelter has used the number of households on the waiting list in England and compared this with the number of homes that are likely to be built under governments current AHP plans.

  • Affordable Housing supply can be found on MHCLG Table 1000c – last year only 6,338 social homes were produced, the past four years the average social housing supply has been 6,443 this is approximately a quarter of our proposed social housing delivery.

  • DWP’s benefit expenditure and caseload figures details spending on Housing Benefit: outturn and forecast Spring Budget 2020'. Real terms expenditure was forecast to rise to £24.758 billion (so more than £24 billion) by 2024/25. But this figure doesn't fully take account of increase caseload since the start of the pandemic.