Soaring private rents add to housing crisis

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Private rents have become unaffordable in more than half of local authorities in England, research from Shelter found.

The charity said average private rents are beyond the means of “ordinary” families in 55 per cent of local authorities.

Homes were found in these areas which cost more than 35 per cent of the median average local take-home pay – the level considered by the Shelter Private Rent Watch report to be unaffordable.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the housing and homelessness charity, said: “We have become depressingly familiar with first-time buyers being priced out of the housing market, but the impact of unaffordable rents is more dramatic.

“With no cheaper alternative, ordinary people are forced to cut their spending on essentials like food and heating, or uproot and move away from jobs, schools and families.”

Shelter said that in the 10 years up to 2007, rents increased at one-and-a-half times the rate of incomes.

Private rents in 8 per cent of local authorities in England were “extremely unaffordable” – with average rents costing 50 per cent or more of full-time take-home pay. Just 12 per cent of areas were affordable, with rents sitting below 30 per cent of take-home wages.

The analysis was carried out on two-bedroom homes due to their common occurrence.

London boroughs were the most expensive, with the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home in the capital standing at £1,360 – almost two-and-a-half times the average in the rest of England, at £568.

The highest private rent for a two-bedroom home was in Kensington and Chelsea, at £2,714 a month, while the lowest was in Burnley, Lancashire, at £394 a month.

Shelter said the least affordable local authority area outside London is Oxford, where typical rents account for 55 per cent of average earnings.

Blackpool was highlighted as the most unaffordable area in the North of England, with average rents taking up 42 per cent of full-time pay.

Rents in Blackpool fell within the cheapest third in England, but relatively low local earnings made them “unaffordable”.

The charity said that 38 per cent of families with children who are renting privately have cut food purchases to pay rent. Close to a third (30 per cent) of privately-rented homes contain children.

Rural areas appear to be bearing the brunt of high rental prices relative to income.

Researchers found it is more affordable to rent in Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham than in north Devon, north Dorset or Herefordshire.

Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “If we want our rural communities to flourish, then the Government needs to urgently review the rental market in rural areas to enable rural communities to meet their housing needs.”

n Nearly a quarter of home owners regret buying their current property, a house valuation website’s study found.

House hunters spend less than half an hour viewing a property before putting in an offer, according to newly launched site PropertyCheck, which uses data from Experian and Rightmove.