Fair rent homes? Our long-term mission to transform renting

As you know, we’re currently campaigning hard to lift the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a type of housing benefit given to 1.2m private tenants who need help paying their rent. But since the government froze LHA in 2015, rents have risen and people are being forced into homelessness as the burden of their rent becomes too much.

If we don’t act now, one million households could be at risk of homelessness by 2020.

By unfreezing LHA payments, the government will be giving over a million hard-pressed households desperately needed relief. It’s urgent that this change happens now, but in the long-term, we recognise that there’s a bigger problem at hand here – private renting is just too expensive.

It has become harder and harder for a growing number of us in the UK to have somewhere decent, affordable and secure to live, as house prices and rents rise far beyond what people can afford.

At the moment there are 1.3 million households on low incomes (around £16,000 a year) struggling to get by after paying their rent each month. Right now, this equates to about 10% of the population – but as house prices and rents continue to rise and there’s less social housing available, this group is growing fast.

If you’re not earning enough to be able to afford home ownership or government schemes like shared ownership or Help to Buy, but unlikely to qualify for the ever-dwindling supply of social housing, then it seems like you’re totally forgotten. You’re likely to be trapped paying ever-higher costs in the private rented sector where contracts are short and rents are swallowing more and more of your salary (and savings too), not to mention the costs incurred every time you move.

Too many people are working to pay the rent, rather than live.

That’s why we’re calling on the government to fund a new generation of homes with fair rents based on what people actually earn and not what a broken market dictates.

Fair rent homes would allow people to live a decent life, not just scrape by – rents based on what local people on lower earnings could actually afford to pay, equating to around a third of a typical tenant’s income, with secure ten-year contracts.

Why not social housing

There is a need for a big increase in social housing. But with 1.2 million people on the waiting list, homelessness rising and social housing prioritised for those in the greatest need, we think there is also an immediate need to help people scraping by in the private rented sector who are stuck between government schemes like shared ownership and inadequate supply of social housing.

This generation of fair rent homes would be a lifeline for hard-pressed private renters, giving people a sense of hope for the future and breathing space for today. Fair rents would allow people to live rather than just scrape by and pay the rent, enabling them to cover their bills more easily, while also helping them build up savings.

We’re calling on the government to build more genuinely affordable homes that meet the needs of people on low incomes.