Porchlight housing blog

What's the human cost of the housing crisis?

The lack of affordable housing has been driving homelessness in Kent for years, and we're bracing ourselves for worse.

Whatever your experience during lockdown, one issue you've probably been aware of is the skyrocketing cost of housing.

The pandemic is making housing even less affordable and for the most vulnerable people in our community, this is proving to be devastating.

Thousands face homelessness post-Covid

As well as driving homelessness, Kent's lack of affordable housing prevents charities like Porchlight from finding safe and secure housing for the people we're supporting.

With the pandemic tipping thousands of the county's households into financial hardship, many more people could soon be forced onto the streets, into unsuitable temporary accommodation or end up sofa surfing with nowhere else to go.

The eviction ban has ended… and we’ll soon feel the effects

During the pandemic, temporary measures were put in place to help people: a ban on evicting renters, the furlough scheme and a £20 a week increase to Universal Credit.

They have been a lifeline, protecting people from the full impact of the crisis. But the eviction ban has now ended, leaving thousands of tenants who are behind with their rent because of the pandemic without a safety net.

With more people at risk of losing their homes in the year ahead, we’re facing an even bigger housing emergency.

District councils are under increasing pressure.

More than nine in 10 local councils are reporting an increase in food bank usage and a 93% increase in demand for help with paying council tax.

All the while, private rents continue to rise.

Between October 2019 and September 2020, the average monthly rent was £725 for England - the highest ever recorded. This is a particular problem in the south east, where private rental costs average £895, higher than anywhere except London.

It’s no wonder many households now find themselves unable to afford rent.

An estimated half a million renters in England are in arrears, and one in seven adults say they are more worried about becoming homeless due to the pandemic.

Kent's rising need for social and affordable housing

Increasingly squeezed local councils provide some social and affordable housing for people on low incomes, but they are struggling with increased demand.

The housing waiting list increased in eight out of 12 Kent districts last year. It’s an issue which is affecting people in London and the south east – in England as whole, waiting lists for social housing were 1.2% lower than the previous year.

Additionally, social housing turnover is slower in London and the south east than in other regions meaning that tenants remain in social housing for longer.

One possible explanation is the widening affordability gap between the social and private rental sectors which means that social tenants are unable to transition into private accommodation. As such, providing new social tenancies to households newly in need becomes an almost impossible challenge.

Kent's lack of affordable housing drives crisis

Homes for people we’ve supported are in short supply

This situation is also impacting Porchlight and the people we support in our housing projects.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable accommodation for people we’ve been supporting who are now ready to move into a home of their own.

These are people who are ready to manage their own tenancy but simply can't afford local rents. They have no option but to stay in a Porchlight property until a rare affordable private rented property becomes available.

Staying in a Porchlight property is certainly not in the best interests of people we support who are ready to take the next step. It also limits the bed spaces and resources we have for other vulnerable people in need.

Sadly, things are going to get worse. With even more people at risk of homelessness, there has never been a more critical time for communities to pull together to make sure vulnerable people in Kent have access to the housing they need.

This blog was written by Tara Chapple, Porchlight’s business development manager.