StepChange’s report exposes insecurity of private rented housing sector
In Barry Knight’s book Rethinking Poverty, the second principle of a good society is: ‘so we are secure and free to choose how to live our lives’. The idea of security seems to be the foundation stone of a good society in the minds of most ordinary people, and security is particularly important when it comes to housing.
StepChange debt charity has this week released a new report called Locked Out, based on a survey of their clients, which highlights the lack of security in the private rented sector, and the hidden housing problems caused by debt. It calls on the government to undertake a full review of the private rented sector and its role in housing vulnerable (including financially vulnerable) people.
Alison Blackwood, author of the report, writes: ‘while it may seem obvious that debt has a negative impact on people’s housing options, what may come as a surprise is the central position of the private rented sector in acting as the main source of housing for vulnerable people in problem debt.’ The survey found that 40 per cent of StepChange’s clients are private rental tenants, by far the most single common tenure, and that the private sector houses almost a third of their clients who have an additional vulnerability (such as a physical or mental health problem, a disability or communication issues) – again, more than any other form of tenure.
Half of all private sector tenants in the survey said their debt problems affect their ability to rent, while over 50 per cent did not report issues to their landlord for fear of not being able to secure another tenancy. One in five had experienced eviction and 90 per cent of those claiming benefit and living in the private sector said their benefit does not cover the full cost of their rent.
In addition to a review of the private rented sector, the charity calls for protections from eviction for rent arrears and an initiative to enable good rental records to help improve credit ratings, while ensuring this does not harm people with current or past experience of payment difficulties.
To read the full report, see here.