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Housing affordability

In many parts of the country, rent levels have been rising making accommodation less affordable as a proportion of income. Social rented housing is becoming increasingly scarce (see housing supply). More people are having to rent from private landlords and paying higher rents.

There has been a big rise in the number of people living in poverty in the private rented sector over the last decade. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation calculates that in 2014/15 there were 4.4 million people living in poverty in the private rented sector. The high cost of housing pushes many people into poverty.

What needs to change

We are calling on the UK government to reconsider reforms on how they calculate Local Housing Allowance so that it covers people’s rent in all parts of the country. 

In England we are calling on government to increase levels of new social housing provision at rent levels that people on low incomes can afford. Read more about social housing rents

In Scotland we are calling on government to use its newly devolved powers over Local Housing Allowance to prevent homelessness. Read more about help to pay housing costs

Social housing rents

The way rents are set in housing provided by councils and housing associations has also changed. Since 2010, most new council and housing association homes have rents set at “affordable rent” levels. These are set at up to 80% of market rent levels and are typically higher than social rents.

Prior to this, social rents were set at levels that took account of average local earnings. At this level, people in lower paid work could typically afford to pay their rent without claiming Housing Benefit.

Help to pay housing costs

Housing Benefit helps people on low incomes to pay their rent. As more low earners are living in either privately rented housing, or in social housing with “affordable rent” levels, more people need to claim Housing Benefit to help pay for their rent. 

But reforms to Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance (see Housing Benefit) mean that in many cases it no longer covers the cost of renting. We are calling on government to reconsider reforms on how they calculate Local Housing Allowance so that it covers people’s rent in all parts of the country.

We are also calling on government to increase levels of new social housing provision at rent levels that people on low incomes can afford.

Response to the Public Accounts Committee “Housing – State of the Nation” Inquiry (Word) - February 2017

Visit our knowledge hub for research on housing models and access.