Councils have warned of a growing crisis in the private rented housing sector, with a sharp rise in landlords selling up or converting their properties into Airbnb’s.
76% of councils surveyed by the District Councils’ Network (DCN) said that this had caused a rise in housing waiting lists, causing more people to lose homes and making it harder to find permanent accommodation for those in need.
Just under half (48%) of these councils said they were now experiencing a significant pressure on housing services due to this.
One council in a popular tourist destination in the south-west of England has reported a near 80% drop in the number of open market, long-term rental accommodation available in their local authority area over the last three years.
The council said that many landlords in the area have left the market or are providing short-term accommodation for holidaymakers instead.
The news comes at the same time as a report by property agent, Zoopla, revealed that rents in the private rented sector have reached a 13 year high, with a 6% increase in the last year.
Councils are reporting that this rise is forcing some long-term tenants to apply for hardship support from their local authority, with some council areas seeing rents rise to over a third higher than the average salary in their local area.
As well as this, councils are warning that the Housing Benefit many suffering hardship receive will likely not be sufficient in the longer term, as the government looks set to keep Local Housing Allowance rates, which determines the amount of benefits received, frozen over the next year.
The DCN said landlords are leaving the market due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with tenants unable to afford their rents, landlords requiring to move into a property themselves and a rise in ‘staycations’, leading to a boom in the short-term holiday let market.
The District Councils’ Network, who represent nearly 200 district councils across the country, is calling on the government to increase investment in council housing and give authorities the tools they need to create their own permanent housing for people in their communities in hardship.
DCN said that district councils stand ready to work with the government to proactively increase the supply and quality of homes for benefit claimants, ensuring those in need can have a permanent roof over their heads in their local communities in the future.
Commenting, Chair of the District Councils’ Network, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen said:
“This survey reveals a perfect storm of problems creating a crisis in the private rented sector across the country.
“Now the government’s eviction ban has ended, this is a problem that could get worse, with councils also seeing increase in the numbers of tenants needing housing support due to increased evictions due to rent arrears.
“During the pandemic, district councils and the government worked together to help protect those who are most vulnerable through the Everyone In initiative, the temporary banning of no-fault evictions and other measures, such as furlough and the Universal Credit uplift.
“We need to urgently tackle this issue by permanently lifting housing benefit for tenants in private rented housing and for increase in government support to invest in a renaissance of council house building to create homes, jobs and growth.”
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