Half a million more children in poverty in private rented homes than ten years ago

08 February 2019

Research by the National Housing Federation has revealed that there are now an estimated 1.3 million children living in poverty in privately rented homes in England, an increase of 537,325 children (69%) since 2008 (1).

Today nearly half (46%) of all children in privately rented homes in England live in poverty.

This is despite seven in ten (71%) of their families being in work.

High property prices and a shrinking proportion of social housing mean that the number of families living in privately rented homes has increased by more than three quarters in a decade – growing faster than couples and single people.

The report shows that many parents are being forced to live in insecure private rented homes which they can’t afford, pushing them and their children into poverty. Since 2012, families living in private rented homes have outnumbered families in social housing.

The National Housing Federation is calling for urgent support from government to build more social housing to help lift these children out of poverty.

The report reveals that around a quarter of a million – 242,753 – of these children would not be living in poverty if they had access to social housing.

A further half a million children would be better off in social housing, with their families able to keep more of their income. These children have also been affected by low incomes, cuts to tax credits, and other benefit changes (2).

The report shows that by moving into social housing, typically 51% of market rent, households in poverty would be around £3,172 a year better off (3) – more than a year’s worth of food for an average household (4).

The government would also save around £1.8 billion of taxpayers’ money each year in housing benefit payments.

The National Housing Federation is calling on the Government to:

  • provide more direct funding for social housing, particularly for family homes which are more expensive to build
  • reform of the way that land is sold, so that housing associations building social housing are no longer priced out by luxury developers who stand to make millions in profit.

According to figures from the National Housing Federation and Crisis published this year, England needs to build 90,000 social homes a year to make up for the critical shortage. Last year only 6,463 were built.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said: “It is a disgrace that in one of the wealthiest countries in the world we cannot provide our children with a secure and affordable home.

The critical lack of social housing is pushing more and more families into poverty by forcing them into insecure privately rented homes they cannot afford.

It's so obvious that we need to be building more social housing and the government has a duty to our children to invest in this. This means increasing funding for social housing and urgently reforming the way that land is sold in this country.

We will only be able to build desperately needed social homes for children living in poverty if housing associations have access to land instead of the current situation where they are forced to bid directly against private developers who make millions from luxury properties.”

Case study 

Ola, 48, lives with her two sons, aged 9 and 25, in a private rented property in Bexley, London. They have always lived in private rented homes and have been finding it increasingly difficult to afford rent and living costs.

In 2012 Ola started working as a carer, until then her benefits covered all her rent, however when her income started going up the benefits stopped, she said: "That is when all the problems started, I could still just about afford to look after my sons because I had a job but it became more difficult to manage."

In October 2018 Ola became ill and couldn’t work, she then decided to leave her job and focus on starting her own jewellery business, she said: “I then had to apply all over again for Universal Credit. It took so long to get the first payment and since then we have been really struggling to survive.”

“My older son pays half of the rent but even then I don’t have enough money to cover the other half and bills as well. I have to use the benefits for my youngest son to pay the rest of the rent and I can only afford to pay the basic bills and so am behind on many payments.

I don’t know what we can do, I live in a constant state of anxiety, but you just have to get in with it."

Notes for editors:

  1. This is calculated from figures taken from 2007/8 EHS to 2015/16 EHS
  2. JRF, UK Poverty 2018
  3. Up to 56,136/ 5.5% of households  in the sample (in poverty and paying market rent) may be impacted by the Benefit Cap in 2018 (based on their circumstances in 2015/16), which has not been accounted for in this analysis. These households would retain a larger proportion of the rent saving.
  4. ONS, Family Spending in the UK: financial year ending March 2017