Wednesday, January 15, 2020

More on the housing crisis - it is a health crisis, too

Private renting is making millions of people ill with almost half of England’s 8.5 million renters experiencing stress or anxiety and a quarter made physically sick as a result of their housing, campaigners have said.

Unaffordable rents, poor living conditions and the risk of eviction are causing a quarter of people – about 2.7 million – to feel hopeless while more than 2 million have been made physically ill, according to polling of nearly 4,000 private renters on behalf of housing charity Shelter. The poll suggested a third of renters had lost sleep at night because of worries in the last year

A quarter of families in England rent privately, nearly 1.6 million last year, more than double the number recorded in the government’s English housing survey a decade earlier. Landlords have seen the value of their investments more than double over the last decade to £1.6tn.

With fewer rented homes coming on to the market than the rise in new renters, the cost of lettings is forecast to rise by more than 3% a year over the next five years. Renters on average spend 41% of their income on housing costs, more than any other tenure, official figures show.

“Every day at Shelter we see the toll that expensive, unstable or poor-quality private renting can take on people’s lives and their health,” said Andrea Deakin, the charity’s emergency helpline manager. “We know how easy it can be to lose hope and feel overwhelmed by these worries, but our message is that you do not have to face them alone.”

Dani Wijesinghe, an organiser for the Bristol branch of the community union Acorn, said: “It is the rule rather than the exception [for tenants she represents] to be experiencing illness: most commonly anxiety, depression, and respiratory conditions.”

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “A whole generation of children risk growing up surrounded by this constant stress and anxiety. This cannot go on."

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