Welfare reforms fail to reduce cost of renting

Private rents in England are rising by almost £300 a year despite government assurances that welfare reforms would drive down the cost of renting, a study has found.

Analysis of Valuation Office Agency data by housing charity Shelter has shown rents rose an average of 2.8 per cent from 2011 to 2012, with some areas seeing increases of more than 14 per cent. The 2.8 per cent rise is equivalent to £297 on average, in a year when average wages did not rise.

The government has repeatedly claimed private rents are falling in real terms, using figures from the English Housing Survey that show rents are rising less quickly than inflation. In January last year prime minister David Cameron claimed rents were falling as a result of welfare reforms but Inside Housing research found no evidence to support the claim.

Shelter also commissioned a survey of 4,300 private renters and found 55 per cent have less than £100 a month left after paying rent and essential bills. Seventy two per cent of renters said they are only able to save £50 or less a month, with 58 per cent saying they are not able to save at all.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘Rising rents are leaving people with little or nothing to save at the end of each month, giving them little chance of ever saving enough to climb on to the property ladder. 

‘The renters we speak to have never been less hopeful. A relentless stream of rent rises means that most feel they will never move on from a life paying “dead money” to landlords, in a home that they can’t make their own. And for some, rising rents have more immediate consequences – not enough money to spend on food, fuel or other essentials.

‘Unless something changes, the chances of the next generation getting a home to call their own look increasingly bleak. The government needs to show young people and families exactly how it plans to dismantle the rent trap for good.’