Rents have risen 60% faster than wages across England since 2011, according to analysis from housing charity Shelter, which claims the crisis is spilling out of cities into “Middle England” towns such as Tunbridge Wells.
The figures show that private rents have risen by 16% since 2011, outpacing average wages which have only risen by 10% over that period. Shelter analysed official data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices.
The charity said the rental crisis was spreading out from London to cities like Cambridge, Bristol and Birmingham, and to “middle England” towns such as Tunbridge Wells and Milton Keynes, where people are increasingly unable to afford soaring rents while their wages lag behind.
The situation is worst in Barking and Dagenham, according to the official data analysed by Shelter, where average rents have jumped 42% between 2011 and 2017 while average household wages have only gone up 2%. Elmbridge in Surrey was the local authority area with the second biggest gap, with rents rising 21% while wages have dropped 15%.
In Bristol, rents have climbed 44% while wages are only up 12%; in Cambridge, rents have increased 36% against a 9% rise for wages. In Tunbridge Wells in Kent, rents are 19% higher while wages are down 9%; in Milton Keynes rents are up 29% and wages have risen 3%.
The number of households that are renting privately has risen by 74% in the 10 years from 2007, according to the latest English Housing Survey. The private rented sector accounted for 4.7m, or 20%, of households in England in 2016/17.
Private renters are spending 41% of their income on rent on average; home owners spend 19% of their income on mortgage payments.
Greg Beales, the campaign director at Shelter, said: “With this surge in private renters the housing market has shifted massively and yet as a country we’ve failed to respond. This has resulted in consecutive governments focusing on better-off home owners while not doing enough for hardpressed renters. We need politicians of all parties to sit up and take notice of the rising numbers of renters, and ensure they’re doing all they can to protect them.”
Recent figures from Nationwide revealed that a third of people privately renting in the UK have just £23 left to spend each week, once rent and utility and food bills have been paid. For most, renting is not a lifestyle choice: more than half of renters told Nationwide that they are only renting because they cannot afford to buy or can’t get a council house.
Shelter is calling on the government to come up with a new plan for social housing so people on low pay can find somewhere affordable to rent. Shelter also stressed that the government’s new three-year tenancies deal must be backed up by law and not light-touch incentives.
Government proposals will give tenants a minimum three-year contract, but allow them to walk away earlier if they wish – provoking a furious response from landlords.