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How bad is the rental crisis? Latest figures reveal reality not the hype

english housing survey

One of the key arguments used by housing campaigners to criticise the private rented sector and its landlords has been contradicted by the latest English Housing Survey.

Latest figures show that affordability for private tenants has improved, with – on average – renters paying 32% of their income on rent over the past 12 months compared to 34% ten years ago.

While there are often pockets of high expenditure on rent in some city centres, the Government figures question whether claims by Generation Rent and other organisations that private tenants now pay ‘close to 40%’ of their earnings on rent are true.

Similarly, Channel 4 recently claimed that renters pay ‘half’ their earning to their private landlords, while the Government figures show this is just over 42%.

Housing support

The survey also reports on how many private tenants receive housing support to pay their rents.

Some 24% of private renters received housing support in 2022-23, down from 25% in 2021-22 albeit an increase from 20% in 2017-18.

Also, claims that tenants are struggling financially are not born out by the figures – in 2019 just 40% had savings, while over the past 12 months that was 50%, the survey shows.

One thing is clear – tenants have weaker personal finances than those who own their homes via a mortgage, 70% of whom have savings.

Also, rent arrears remain low and have not surged since the cost of living crisis hit.

The survey reports that in 2022-23, 2% of private renters reported being in rent arrears and a further 4% reported they had fallen behind with rent payments during the 12 months prior.

This is similar to the proportion who reported being currently in arrears (3%) or in arrears in the 12 months prior (4%) in 2021-22.

These figures come from the annual English Housing Survey published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and compiled by the Office for National Statistics.

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