Young housing benefit tenants shut out of private rented sector

Just 1.5 per cent of rental properties are available to single people on housing benefits, according to research from homelessness charity Crisis.

The charity for single homeless people organised ‘mystery shoppers’ to pose as renters looking for a room in shared properties in the private rented sector in Birmingham, Leeds and Lewisham.

Of the 4,360 rooms advertised, only 13 per cent were priced within the benefits rates and of these 66 (1.5 per cent) were owned by landlords willing to rent to DSS tenants.

Crisis carried out the research No room available on 14 and 15 November this year to find out what housing is available to single people under the age of 35 claiming housing benefit. This is the type of accommodation affordable to single people under 35.

Under 35s now receive the shared accommodation rate, lower than local housing allowance, which was before January 2012 restricted to under 25s.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: ‘This snapshot of a typical rental search for a single person builds a picture of desperate shortage, particularly for those restricted to lower housing benefit levels, and shows that landlords are reluctant to take on benefits claimants.’

The research found:

  • In Birmingham of 1,813 shared property rooms available, only 188 (10 per cent) had rents priced within affordable ranges for those claiming housing benefit and in just 29 cases (1.9 per cent) the landlord or letting agent were willing to let to claimants
  • In Leeds of 1,877 shared property rooms available, 290 (15 per cent) were affordable and only 31 (1.7 per cent) open to housing benefit recipients
  • In Lewisham 670 properties were available, 82 (12 per cent) were affordable and only six (0.9 per cent) open to claimants.

Crisis also released research today showing 88 per cent of advisors to single homeless people say housing benefit cuts are raising the risk of their clients becoming homeless. Many of the homeless people are stuck on floors and sofas of families and friends, the report says.

The charity interviewed 225 advisors for Hitting Home in October this year and 76 per cent reported a decrease in the availability of affordable private lettings. The shortage was worse in London and the south of England with 90 per cent of the advisors saying there was a lack of PRS accommodation.

Ms Morphy said: ‘The government claimed that rents would drop to match lower benefits and that despite the cuts around a third of properties would still be available to rent. 

‘But that’s just not the case. People are really struggling and being forced to choose between rent, food and heating, and their debts are growing.’

She urged the government to ensure more homes are built and benefits are adequate, particularly for those under 35. Crisis also wants the shared accommodation rate abolished and landlords to be encouraged to let to housing benefit claimants.