As the UK's private rental sector (PRS) landlords work hard to support their tenants during the coronavirus pandemic, the industry has come under fire for the quality of housing on offer and a lack of future planning. Two separate reports from Shelter and the Institute of Housing (IOH) each criticise the provision of rental homes now and in the future, with accusations levelled mainly at the government.
Both reports state that the construction of enough new, truly affordable social housing would go a long way to solving the problems that many of the UK's tenants currently live with. Significant investment in social housing construction would also boost the economy while easing future eviction fears among many young families who live in the rented homes.
Decent, Affordable Rental Homes in Short-Supply
Homeless charity Shelter’s latest research on the UK’s rental sector suggests that some 49% of tenants didn’t feel safe in their home during the pandemic. A number of reasons for this were outlined in the survey, including:
- A lack of indoor space for 29% for 2.4 million renters.
- Cost of renting is considered expensive for the quality of the accommodation for 43% or 3.6 million.
- Poor conditions including electrical hazards, infestations and damp for 35% or 3 million.
It was also noted in the research that private sector tenants were more likely to have struggled, particularly during the lockdown, than social tenants.
Together, it highlights that while the PRS continues to play an important part in the provision of rental properties across the UK, it isn’t the ideal scenario for many tenants. That’s partly because renting in the private sector is typically more expensive and also due to the lack of security with landlords able to sell their investments to suit their situation.
Indeed, while it may seem on the face of it that landlords are under fire, Shelter has heaped most of the blame on the lack of social housing provision from the government.
“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,” said Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate.
More Homes Needed to Avoid Mass Evictions
Separately, the CIH warned there is a risk that evictions of residential tenants and homelessness will rise sharply in the coming months as the effects of the pandemic leave those renting, particularly in the PRS, unable to pay their rent. The briefing paper added that while there is clear support for first-time buyers, young renters are bearing the brunt of the lack of planning for the UK’s housing provision.
The body adds that it had already stated earlier in 2020 that the effects of the pandemic would highlight the poor state of the UK’s rental sector, something that has now been borne out. Indeed, while the cost of a mortgage when buying a home is typically lower than average monthly rent charges, many tenants are simply unable to save enough money for a deposit due to high rents. This is something that could be tackled with an increase in social rental housing, however, social landlords are already counting the cost of making all rental homes fire-safe leaving them little room to invest in more homes.
“When we released the 2020 UK Housing Review earlier this year, we made it clear that the pandemic would highlight the need for more homes that are genuinely affordable, and our analysis in the Autumn Briefing Paper shows just that,” said Gavin Smart, chief executive of the CIH. “While we need more homes of all kinds, we particularly need homes at lower ‘social’ rents, support for home ownership must not happen at the expense of truly affordable social housing.”
Overall, the message from both bodies is clear; the government must put forward some provision to support the building of more affordable social housing across the UK to ensure the growing army of tenants have somewhere safe, secure and affordable to live.