Government urged to give furloughed workers greater help with rent costs

More than a third of furloughed workers are worried about meeting rent costs. Picture: PAMore than a third of furloughed workers are worried about meeting rent costs. Picture: PA
More than a third of furloughed workers are worried about meeting rent costs. Picture: PA | pa
Pressure is mounting on the Government to provide long-term help with housing costs for furloughed workers after it was revealed that more than a third of furloughed private renters are worried about paying their rent once the coronavirus lockdown ends.

New research by the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) showed 37 per cent of furloughed private renters - around 250,000 people - could be in a position where they struggle to meet their housing costs when the lockdown ends.

The JRF said the research demonstrated the “precarious situation” faced by many households who are renting privately, and indicated that large numbers of people could need to rely on the social security system for support with their housing costs for the first time if they lose their jobs after the end of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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The government recently temporarily increased the amount of support private renters can get for their housing costs, known as Local Housing Allowance (LHA) up to the cheapest 30 per cent of local market rents.

But the Foundation said it still leaves a big gap between the support available and the real cost of renting, especially in areas with high rents, and is calling on the Government to increase LHA to cover median rents in all areas, as well as the removal of the national cap.

Policy and Partnerships Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Darren Baxter, said: “Renters are really worried about not being able to pay the rent, both right now and in the future when the lockdown ends, particularly those who’ve been furloughed. The furlough scheme has been a lifeline during the pandemic, but it will not save every job, and many private renters who are let go by their employer will need to turn to the social security system for help with housing costs.

“The government has temporarily increased housing benefit levels to the lowest third of local rents, but this still falls well short of what is needed for the typical renter to pay their rent. As a country we believe in looking after each other when times get tough. To achieve this the government should increase Local Housing Allowance rates to cover median local rents, and lift the national cap so that renters in all areas of the country will get the lifeline they need to stay afloat and keep their homes.”

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A Government spokesperson said: “The Government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic to ensure no one can be forced from their home - we have always said we will keep these measures under review and can extend if necessary.

“We have increased the Local Housing Allowance rates so they cover the lowest 30% of market rents and from April around 900,000 people across the UK saw their Housing Benefit rise. In areas where rates have diverged furthest from local rents we are increasing support for low income households.

“We will continue to carefully consider the next steps on how best to support tenants and landlords to ensure fairness in the rental market.”

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