Yorkshire families '˜stretched to breaking point by rising housing costs'

Nearly 350,000 working families in Yorkshire could be one missed pay cheque from losing their home because they don't have enough savings to fall back on if the main breadwinner loses their job, a housing charity has claimed today.

Charity Shelter has warned that working families are 'stretched to breaking point' by rising housing costs.

Rising housing costs and a lack of personal savings mean 41 per cent of working families in the region could not afford to pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they were without work, according to Shelter.

The housing and homelessness charity says the figures show many families are “stretched to breaking point, and barely scraping by from one pay cheque to the next”.

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It has urged the Government to “protect and improve the welfare safety net that helps families to stay in their home when they fall on hard times” during what it describes as a “period of economic uncertainty”.

The chief executive of a Yorkshire housing association said the findings, based on a July poll of 8,381 adults which included 1,581 working families with children, pointed to “a worrying situation which is made worse by rising private rents and house prices”.

The figure of 41 per cent is higher than the national rate of 37 per cent, based on a survey which asked respondents how long, if at all, they could afford to pay their rent or mortgage from their savings if they lost their job and could not find work.

Twenty-one per cent of working families in Yorkshire and the Humber said they would be unable to pay their housing costs at all without a job, while 47 per cent of working families in the region said the cost of housing placed the greatest financial strain on their budget.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: “These figures are a stark reminder that sky-high housing costs are leaving millions of working families stretched to breaking point, and barely scraping by from one pay cheque to the next.

“Any one of us could hit a bump along life’s road, and at Shelter we speak to parents every day who, after losing their job or seeing their hours cut, are terrified of losing the roof over their children’s heads too.

“In these uncertain times, the new Government has a real chance to show working families they’re on their side, by protecting and improving our welfare safety net. It’s vital that if life does takes a turn for the worse, there’s enough support available for families so that they don’t go hurtling towards homelessness.”

A single mother of two children, named only as Lou, told researchers that although she is working full-time as a complex needs carer, and has moved into a small flat, she still finds keeping up with the rent every month a struggle.

She said: “I’m working hard, but it still makes me feel like a failure. I recently changed jobs and hit a rough patch when I thought I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent. An employer had given me some work and didn’t tell me that my hours wouldn’t be guaranteed, I lost a chunk of my income all of a sudden, and very nearly lost my home. It was really scary.

“There’s never a cushion. You’d think if you were working you’d be able to save a little bit every month, but it’s just not a possibility when just paying for the basics is so expensive.”

Yorkshire Housing chief executive Mervyn Jones said: “This is a worrying situation which is made worse by rising private rents and house prices.

“We’re calling on the Government to offer more flexibility on funding for housing so we can deliver more affordable rented homes, as well as offering schemes to help people onto the housing ladder. Housing associations offer lower rents which enable families to save.”

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We are introducing the National Living Wage, increasing the personal tax allowance and giving the next generation choice and flexibility in their savings, including the Help to Save scheme for people on low incomes.

“We are continuing to spend around £90bn a year on working age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for the most vulnerable. And for those who do fall on difficult times, there are strong protections in place to guard against the threat of homelessness.”