REPORT REVEALS GROWING CRISIS FOR RENTERS IN DEVON AND CORNWALL
A major new report by local Citizens Advice services and the University of Plymouth shines a spotlight on the damaging effects of the government’s three-year freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates for local private sector renters.
The report, “Sometimes I Sit on the Sofa and Cry”, tells the stories of local people struggling to keep-up with soaring rents and eviction notices and contains suggestions to help ease the crisis, including an increase in LHA, an emergency cap on rents and provision of more affordable homes.
The research (which focused on the South Hams, Plymouth and SE Cornwall) found that average rents in the area have been outstripping the level of LHA support since 2015 but the gap has now grown to 12%.
Citizens Advice South Hams Chief Executive, Janie Moor, said:
“This report shows the urgent need for action as more and more people in our region face long waits in temporary accommodation or homelessness.
“We know that second homes and holiday lets are putting pressure on the private rental market just when food, fuel and energy inflation is putting unsustainable pressure on many people’s household incomes.”
The report highlights the story of Ken, who came to Citizens Advice for support. The 67-year-old pensioner rents a one-bedroom flat for £475-a-month but only receives £200-a-month in Housing Benefit.
Ken*, who is now using a foodbank, said: “I don’t have enough coming in to pay what’s going out. Rising bills, food – is one that’s hit me even harder…You know, I sit there on my sofa and cry. How have I got into this state?”
A local lettings agent, interviewed as part of the report, said: “We have high rents which are quite often unaffordable and most people on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit have very little chance of finding a home.
“Also the lack of help for landlords in the private sector and increasing legislation has resulted in landlords selling and the better-off first-time buyers buying due to help by family and friends or inheritance.
“The changes are a two-class system developing and so many people with little hope of finding a home or indeed no hope.”
The increase in people facing eviction has also led to big increases in bills for temporary accommodation for local authorities. In Cornwall, the figure has risen from £9.5 million in 2020/21 to £18.4million in 2022/23. For South Hams District Council, the figure has risen from £115k to £476k in the same period.
The report is the result of a collaboration between local Citizens Advice charities in the South Hams, Plymouth and Cornwall and the University of Plymouth’s Plymouth Business School. It was funded following a successful bid to the University’s Get Involved programme.
Dr Nigel Jackson, Associate Professor in the Plymouth Business School, added:
“From the outside, many people may look at Devon and Cornwall and perceive them as being relatively affluent. However, there are thousands of people having to make very difficult financial choices every day as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads.
“By speaking to people experiencing housing challenges, the organisations supporting them and the local housing sector, this project has shone a spotlight on the pressing need for collective action to address this.”
The full report can be found here:
NOTES TO EDITORS:
*Name changed to protect identity.
Citizens Advice South Hams provides free, independent and confidential advice for all members of the community.