Shelter demands 1 million affordable homes be built to save families from exorbitant rents. By Felicity Collier
A MILLION genuinely affordable houses are needed over the next decade because nearly half of low-income workers are having to cut back on basics to pay rent, housing charity Shelter warned yesterday.
Some 44 per cent of low-paid working families are reining in their spending on food, clothes and toys to pay extortionate rents.
Shelter urged the building of 500,000 “fair-rent” homes — with rents tied to local incomes — on top of 500,000 council houses over the next 10 years to help those struggling in private rented housing.
This would also reduce the national housing benefit bill, because nearly a fifth of working households renting privately need help to get by.
The “fair-rent” homes would have 10-year minimum tenancies. The charity estimates that the cost of providing one of these homes would cost just £58,000.
The proposal comes a few weeks after the Tories announced plans to build just 25,000 new council homes — a pitiful number which will do little to help struggling families who are essentially “trapped” if they cannot get social housing, Shelter said.
“Despite slogging every hour they can, huge numbers of people are struggling to keep up with colossal private rents,” Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said.
“Far too many families are feeling shame and anxiety as they are forced to make impossible decisions just to keep a roof over their children’s heads.”
Private renting has become the single leading cause of homelessness, fuelled by short-term tenancies coming to an end and a lack of affordable alternatives.
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FROM P1: Families with children have borne the brunt of this, as a decade ago just one child in 10 lived in the private-rented sector whereas now one in four are growing up “amid uncertain security and high rents,” it added.
Nadine, from Wokingham, who has two jobs to pay her £950-a-month rent, said: “Until my daughter turned 16 recently, I cut back on an awful lot of clothes for her. I used to glue her school shoes back together myself.
“Her school trips were her holidays and they were only paid for by tight budgeting, and my daughter’s own savings.”
Half of low-earning renters say they cannot even afford to save £10 per month.
Housing activist Dorian Courtesi told the Star: “The pressures from government housing policy are pretty dire — if you add in [problems with] universal credit, homelessness will increase due to debt.”
He criticised councils, especially those in London, that market new-build homes as “affordable” — which can be anything up to 80 per cent of market rate — and “manipulate the figures to make it look affordable.”
Mr Courtesi said that truly fair rent would be a ratio of between 25 and 35 per cent of a low-earning household’s income, but at the moment it is costing people in the region of 45 to 56 per cent to put a roof over their heads.