Only half of England renters felt safe at home during lockdown

Damien Gayle
·2-min read

Only half of private renters in England felt safe in their homes during the coronavirus lockdown and a quarter said their housing situation had made coping with lockdown more difficult, research has found.

The findings come from a poll, which also found more than a third – 35% – of private renters were living in poor conditions, with electrical hazards, pests or damp-related issues in their home. One in five were struggling to pay their rent or had already fallen behind on payments.

The housing charity Shelter commissioned the polling as part of research for a report that warns that the impact of the Covid-19 health emergency on people in poor accommodation has intensified England’s housing crisis.

A long-term trend of low-income households renting from private landlords has meant an increasing number of people are in unfit homes that they can barely afford, the charity said.

Krystalrose, a 26-year-old single mother, described how the damp in her one bedroom flat in Enfield, east London, was consuming her and her baby’s possessions. “It’s spread to other walls, into my daughter’s cot, it’s ruined her toys, her clothes, the sofa – we’ve lost so much,” she said.

“I suffer with anxiety and depression and living like this during lockdown has made it more difficult as we are at home constantly. I am also asthmatic and breathing in mould all day is not helping. It’s awful for my daughter too – she is very young, and I worry what this is doing to her lungs.”

The YouGov poll, of 5,177 adults between 4 and 7 September, found that 56% of private renters experienced an issue with the condition of their home during lockdown; 15% said they experienced a housing maintenance issue that caused stress while confined to their homes.

Forty-four per cent of private renters said their home had less space than they needed, and 29% said this made lockdown harder, compared with 29% and 15% respectively of the overall number polled.

Shelter is calling for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to fund 50,000 new social homes – four times the number of social homes currently delivered each year. “Funding this programme could kickstart the post-Covid recovery and reverse years of decline in social housebuilding,” the charity said.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Millions have spent months trapped in private rentals they do not trust to keep them safe, and right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

“After decades of decline, a dire lack of social homes means too many people pay too much for cramped and poor-quality housing – or, worse yet, they find themselves with nowhere to live.

“With the stakes so high, the case for building decent social homes is clear.”