1.7 million renters expect to lose their job in the next three months says report from homeless charity
Almost one in five private renters in England – an estimated 1.7 million adults – say they are likely to lose their job in the next three months because of the coronavirus crisis, new research by Shelter reveals.
The polling, which was carried out by YouGov shortly after the government announced its employee retention scheme, shows almost one in four renters (24%) have already seen their incomes fall, or lost their jobs, as a result of the pandemic. Even more worryingly, two million renters (23%) say losing their job will leave them immediately unable to pay their rent.
The housing charity is warning a growing number of people will need to rely on welfare benefits for the first time to cover their basic costs. An alarming situation already reflected in the latest Department of Work and Pensions data, which shows 950,000 new claims for Universal Credit were made in the last two weeks alone – a tenfold increase.
But with people now unable to safely move to cheaper housing, Shelter is arguing current Universal Credit rates are still too low, despite a recent increase, to stop people falling massively behind on their rent.
The housing element of Universal Credit only covers the lowest third of market rents in an area, meaning those paying average rents will face a large shortfall. For families in a two-bedroom home, the shortfall is as high as £400 a month outside of London, and up to £1,227 in the capital.
To prevent spiralling levels of debt, poverty and needless evictions further down the line, the charity wants the government to increase housing benefit, so it covers the average cost of local rents. It says this emergency measure is essential to help people through the financial shock caused by the virus.
Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “The government has rightly suspended evictions until June, so no one has to face homelessness in the middle of this pandemic. But millions of renters will be in dire straits further down the line without more government support.
“As renters lose their jobs and see their incomes hit, many will have to rely on the welfare safety net for the first time. Our services are already hearing from families in homes they could comfortably afford under normal circumstances, who are now in serious financial difficulty.
“We’re facing an onslaught of people suddenly unable to afford their rent, at a time when people need to stay put and cannot safely move to a cheaper home. To avoid spiralling debt and needless evictions once the ban lifts, the government must increase the housing element of Universal Credit so that it covers the average cost of local rents.”
Anyone who is facing homelessness can get free and expert advice from Shelter by visiting www.shelter.org.uk/get_help or by calling our emergency helpline on 0808 800 4444.