Many households are finding themselves in a situation where they are unable to pay their rent. Research by housing charity Shelter carried out during the final week of March found that 24% of renters had already lost or seen their income fall due to the pandemic and 23% of renters claimed that losing their job would immediately leave them unable to pay rent. It is welcome that in March the government announced suspension of evictions for 3 months, participants in this study have raised concerns about what happens once this ban is lifted.
Our research also highlighted concern for housing quality, particularly overcrowded housing. Government data released earlier this year uncovered that 283,000 households in England who rent privately are living in overcrowded conditions.
Participants who had spacious houses and gardens often noted their own privilege, as for those living in overcrowded households, particularly those with children are likely to find social isolation exceedingly difficult and stressful. They are being required to spend their days living on top of one another in crowded houses, with little opportunity to let off steam:
“Families on low income are in small flats/houses and often without access to a garden or green space. That’s really hard for energetic children.”
“Many of our parishioners are in low-quality housing, some high-rise. They are particularly restricted by difficulties in getting out for exercise, and subject to the pressures of overcrowding or of isolation – or both.”
Respondents also raised concerns for how this overcrowding is likely to exacerbate any mental health or family and relationship problems experienced in these households:
“Many families in our local community live in flats and these pressures could lead to an increase in mental health issues and domestic violence.”
“Any pressures on the relationships within the family group [will be] exacerbated by close confinement.”
These findings come from the report ‘Gleanings: Listening and learning to poverty under lockdown’, produced by Church Action on Poverty and JPIT.