Private rents in England unaffordable, says Shelter

Estate agent to let signs Just 12% of areas in England have affordable rents, research by housing charity Shelter found

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Private rents are now unaffordable in 55% of local authorities in England, the housing charity Shelter has said.

Homes in these areas cost more than 35% of median average local take-home pay - the level considered unaffordable by Shelter's Private Rent Watch report.

The charity said 38% of families with children who rent privately have cut back on buying food to help pay rent.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said it had curbed red tape "which would have pushed up rents and reduced choice".

Shelter's research found rents had risen at one-and-a-half times the rate of incomes in the 10 years up to 2007.

'Dramatic impact'

It said private rents in 8% of England's local authorities were "extremely unaffordable" - with average rents costing at least half of full-time take-home pay.

Just 12% of areas were affordable, it added.

Shelter analysed two-bedroom homes because they were so widely found and used Valuation Office Agency and Office for National Statistics data.

England's regional divide

  • Average monthly rent for two-bedroom home in London is £1,360 - almost two-and-a-half times more than the rest of England
  • Kensington and Chelsea is the highest at £2,714 a month
  • Burnley in Lancashire the lowest at £394 a month
  • Oxford is the least affordable area outside London
  • Blackpool is the least affordable in north of England

Source: Shelter

Chief executive Campbell Robb said: "We have become depressingly familiar with first-time buyers being priced out of the housing market, but the impact of unaffordable rents is more dramatic.

"With no cheaper alternative, ordinary people are forced to cut their spending on essentials like food and heating, or uproot and move away from jobs, schools and families."

Rural areas were found to be worst hit by the high rentals relative to income, with rents in Manchester and Birmingham more affordable than in north Devon or Herefordshire.

Alice Barnard from the Countryside Alliance urged the government to "urgently review" the rental market in rural areas.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said the government recognised the importance of private landlords in providing accessible and affordable homes.

"We have stopped the imposition of excessive new red tape on the private rented sector, which would have pushed up rents and reduced choice for tenants," he said.

"We also need to build more homes given new house building fell to its lowest peacetime levels since the 1920s under the last administration."

He said councils would be rewarded for freeing up disused public land to build on.

Map showing affordability of rented housing across England

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  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Landlords are simply attempting to off set the loss they are seeing every month in the value of their property. In the north east over the past year for example, house values have dropped around 9% - so about £1000 a month lost! The landlord is seeking to off set that loss by increasing his rental income. Buyto-let landlords will be well into negative equity due to the large house price falls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    The reason private rents are unaffordable is that there is no competition, since we have a drastic shortage of housing for our changing population- far more people live in single person households nowadays, and there are far less openings for lodgers.

    Worse, new home building in recent years has failed to even keep up with net migration which has exacerbated the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    If rental prices are too high either we need to cap rents or increase supply of houses. Capping rents would be quickest but could lead to a deterioration in the housing stock. Increasing supply would take longer but would reduce rent/housing prices. The important thing is that new houses have to be affordable to the lowest income bracket. Prefabs would probably be the most cost effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Housing could be much cheaper in UK via modern hi tec pre-fabricated housing made in factorys & just assembled onsite, same with schools/hospitals
    Germany builds many excellent prefab houses, so do Dutch, so do USA, but UK there is this idea in UK that they are somehow not good houses & also mortgage companys are biased against them.

    UK housing is a closed shop maximised rip-off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    As a landlord of 3 houses, I have seen only a very small rent rise over the last two years. Meantime the costs of servicing loans, repairs (some casued by tenant abuse) have risen as values have fallen. Whilst there are landlords who exploit the system most dont from my experience. Rent caps will only result in less proerties being made available;many are only marginal now.


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