What the cost of living crisis means for people in Kent

People have impossible choices between heating and eating

The cost of living is increasing at a dramatic rate and Kent residents are among the worst affected.

We’re already hearing from an increasing number of people who can’t afford to feed themselves and are bracing ourselves for a rise in callers unable to cover their food and energy bills and pay rent.

As a result, we’re bracing ourselves for a homelessness crisis in Kent. Here’s what’s happening.

In Kent rents are too high and wages are too low

In Kent, the cost of renting is higher than many other parts of England. Between October 2020 and September 2021, the average monthly private rent for a two-bed property in Kent was £860. For England in general, it was £750.

To make matters worse, people in Kent face even greater challenges because their wages are not keeping up with the cost of renting. In six local authorities (Ashford, Folkestone & Hythe, Gravesham, Maidstone, Swale and Thanet), resident earnings are below the national average.

Increasing energy bills

Everyone will be affected by the rocketing cost of energy bills and fuel, but those on the lowest incomes will be hit the hardest.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation:

  • low-income families spend 16% of their incomes (after rent costs or mortgage costs) on energy bills
  • by comparison, middle-income families spend just 5%
  • single adults on low incomes pay a massive 43%

Ofgem recently announced that the energy price cap, which limits the price a supplier can charge you per unit of electricity and gas, will increase by 54% this April.

People paying by direct debit will see an annual increase of £693 (from £1,277 to £1,971) and those on prepayment metres will see an annual increase of £708 (from £1,309 to £2,017).

National Insurance is going up

As well as inflation, household budgets will be further squeezed by increased National Insurance contributions from April. For every pound earned over £9,880, workers will pay an additional 1.25 pence in contributions.

Benefits aren’t covering the cost of rent

Many people rely on housing benefit to keep a roof over their head. But in many areas of Kent, benefits no longer cover the cheapest 30% of one-bedroom rental properties and single rooms in shared houses.

This is because local housing allowance rates - used to work out how much people can claim in benefits towards their housing costs - have been frozen since April 2021. This is despite the cost of renting continuing to rise.

More people risk being evicted from their homes

Mortgage lenders and landlords have begun eviction proceedings against tenants at levels we haven’t seen since 2019.

Evictions were paused during the pandemic, but now there are no protections for people who are struggling to pay the bills. There’s a very real risk that evictions will rise further over the coming months.

Despite this, homelessness support is being cut

Kent County Council recently made the decision to decommission its Kent Homeless Connect service, delivered by Porchlight and other organisations, in September 2022.

Kent Homeless Connect provides specialist housing-related care and support for some of the most vulnerable people in society. For many, it’s the only lifeline they have left and is needed more than ever.