Housing charities warn lack of government support for renters will see homelessness rise

'The Chancellor could have put an end to spiralling homelessness, but instead he’s stuck his head in the sand.'

A photo of a blanket laying on cardboard boxes on a street

Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget has been criticised for completely overlooking the housing sector. The Chancellor announced no measures that will impact the rental or mortgage market.

The lack of support for first-time buyers has been described by property experts as ‘bewildering,’ and a ‘catastrophic misstep for the Tories which could cost them in the next general election.’

Figures from the tenant support charity Shelter, show one in three private renters (1.8 million) in England rely on housing benefit to help pay their rent. The number of households living in temporary accommodation has risen by an alarming 87 percent in the last ten years – rising from just over 50,000 to almost 100,000. More than two in five (44 percent) of private renting adults in England – equivalent to 3.6 million people – say rising living costs are making them more worried about becoming homeless. Rents have risen by 8.4 percent in England since Local Housing Allowance (LHA) last matched rent costs in 2020.

Despite the alarming figures and the cost of rents rising rapidly, there was no support mentioned for private renters in the Spring Budget. Homelessness campaigners have warned that the lack of support for renters will lead to more people facing homelessness and debt.

Generation Rent, which aims to make sure that the voice of private renters are heard, has hit out at the Spring Budget. Alicia Kennedy, the organisation’s director, notes how the rising cost of living has hit private renters the hardest, with 50 percent having to pay more rent, as well as other the cost of other bills soaring.

“Evictions for rent arrears are at their highest level on record. The millions of people who rely on the benefits system to cover their rent are being squeezed more and more, with Local Housing Allowance frozen since 2020 but rents having risen in that time by 8 percent nationally.

“The Chancellor had an opportunity today to provide some respite by relinking Local Housing Allowance to market rents.

“But this inaction means we will see more people get into debt and face homelessness,” said Kennedy.

The homeless charity Crisis said the Spring Budget failed to deliver support for people struggling to keep their homes.

As part of a campaign ran by Crisis, 3,400 people contact their MP over the last few months, calling for an end of the housing benefit freeze, reaching more than 500 MPs across the UK. The government still chose to keep the housing benefit freeze in place.

“There is a huge missed opportunity to support people struggling to pay their rent or finding it difficult to move on from homelessness because they can’t afford private rents. It will mean even more people are forced into homelessness over the coming months,” said Crisis.

Shelter issued a similar warning. Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: “The Chancellor could have put an end to spiralling homelessness, but instead he’s stuck his head in the sand.

“Homelessness has almost doubled in the last 10 years and yet again we have a Budget that does nothing to help struggling renters who are drowning in debt and rapidly rising rents. It is outrageous that the government has chosen to keep housing benefit frozen at 2020 levels when its own figures show rents have risen by more than 8 percent in this time.

“A massive growth in homelessness is surely not the type of growth the government wants, so why is it ignoring this crisis? Sleeping rough or being shunted from hostel-to-hostel ruins people’s lives and costs the economy more. This is the government’s final warning to introduce emergency measures to keep people in their homes – it must urgently unfreeze housing benefit.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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