Over 1 in 10 PRS renters unable to get social housing

The mass majority of people renting in the private sector (PRS) who are in need of social housing are unable to get it, a shock report has revealed.

According to housing charity Shelter’s research, 91% of PRS tenants can’t get access to a social home, with many waiting for years.

The analysis shows that though there were nearly 500,000 PRS households on council waiting lists last year, fewer than 43,000 were moved into a social rent home.

Worse, according to Shelter, the true scale of need among PRS renters is probably far greater as, since 2011, councils have been able to decide the eligibility criteria for their own waiting lists with many insisting people must have a long-standing connection to the local area to qualify, meaning thousands cannot even get on the list in the first place.

Shelter says the problem stems from decades of failure to build new social homes - only 6,434 were delivered last year, but 21,500 were lost through sales, conversions, and demolitions. 

The charity has also explored the day-to-day impacts of being unable to access a genuinely affordable social home. A Shelter-commissioned YouGov study found that 21% of PRS tenants (1.8 million people) are constantly struggling or falling behind with their rent. 

And children and families are not immune, with parents making cuts such as:

•    24% cutting back on food (equivalent to over 600,000 parents)
•    18% cutting back on heating their home (equivalent to more than 450,000 parents)
•    14% skipping meals completely (equivalent to 350,000 parents)

Shelter says official statistics show tenants in the PRS spend on average 41% of their income on rent, making it more expensive than any other type of housing.

With a general election in sight, Shelter is calling for every political party to invest in the new social housing, including a commitment to deliver at least 90,000 homes a year over the course of the next parliament.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “When 9 in 10 private renters who need a social home aren’t getting one, alarm bells should be ringing. But when this means parents are forced to skip meals just to pay their rent then clearly, we need to take action now.  

“Decades of failure to build social housing has created a nightmare scenario with people trapped in private renting all over the country. On top of living on the breadline, far too many are facing the threat of eviction or battling poor conditions.

“To save struggling renters from a lifetime of instability, social housing must be at the heart of every party’s manifesto during the election. We are calling on all parties to commit to delivering at least 90,000 social rent homes a year over the next parliament, to give everyone in this country a fighting chance of a stable home.”

You can read Shelter’s report here