Every month is a struggle for mum of three Joanna. Despite working as a dinner lady at a local primary school, her paycheque is nowhere near enough to cover her rent and pay for food, bills, and all the other costs associated with supporting a family.
‘It’s a constant battle trying to make things work,’ Joanna tells Shelter. ‘When I go to the supermarket, the first place I’m looking is in the reduced section. This is normal to me. It’s the way we have to live.’
Joanna’s thankful for her home but knows first-hand what a struggle it is to live from paycheque to paycheque. Although she gets some help with tax credits and housing benefit, her budget is so tight it barely stretches to cover the rent on the family’s home in Owestry, Shropshire.
Already too small to fit a growing family, single mum Joanna’s 12 and 17-year-old daughters share a bedroom, while her 15-year-old son’s room is cramped. Even with the family living in such close quarters, Joanna is barely able to afford daily basics, pay the rent, and not get behind on bills. She just can’t afford to move somewhere with more space for the children, already worried that if there was an emergency, the family would have nothing to fall back on.
And Joanna’s family aren’t alone in this. New research from Shelter shows that close to half of private renters in England would not be able to cover their rent for more than a month if they lost their job. Unable to save, Joanna has no doubt of the struggle she and her family would face.
‘It’s stressful,’ she admits. ‘My rent is my number one priority. It has to be paid at the expense of everything else. If my rent goes for one month without being paid, then I’m homeless.
‘It’s a constant paranoia about not managing very well,’ Joanna adds. ‘You have to turn the heating off even in the winter. When [the kids] break their school shoes, do you try to glue the old ones back together?’
These findings only reinforce the fact that securing more social homes really is the only genuinely affordable alternative to private renting for millions of people like Joanna. It’s the only way to give families like hers the stability they deserve.
With the country in a state of such political and economic uncertainty, we urge all parties not to side-line the housing emergency, and to ensure social housebuilding is at the centre of any domestic agenda.
Have you had a bad housing experience? If so share your story with Shelter to raise awareness of the need for safe, secure and affordable homes.