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Pressure mounts for renters, self-employed, lone parents and furloughed workers

by: Emma Lunn
  • 21/04/2021
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One in 10 people with mortgages and one in five private renters have found it difficult to pay for housing in the past year.


More than twice as many people on furlough than not on furlough (17 per cent versus 8 per cent) were likely to have found it difficult to keep up with their mortgage payments. Almost a third (29 per cent) of those on furlough had used savings to pay their mortgage or rent, compared to 17 per cent not on furlough.

Around 12 per cent of people were behind with at least one household bill, with this figure to rising to 24 per cent for private renters. Tenants were most likely to be behind with utilities (14per cent), credit card payments (9 per cent) and other household bills (9 per cent).

The figures come from the English Housing Survey’s Household Resilience Study, Wave 2 with surveys taking place in November and December 2020.

In November/December 2020, 9 per cent of private renters were in arrears, up from 3 per cent in the same months in 2019-20 before the pandemic began.

Some 3 per cent of couples without children and 5 per cent of households of unrelated adults were behind with one or more household bill compared to 37 per cent of lone parents with children aged 15 or under.

Overall, 61 per cent of households reported that their income had not changed since the previous Household Resilience Survey in June/July 2020. One in 10 (11 per cent) reported it had increased by at least £100 per month. About a fifth (17 per cent) reported it had decreased by at least £100 per month.

Similar to June/July 2020, the self-employed were more likely than those employed full or part-time to report that their income had decreased by at least £100 (40 per cent of those self-employed reported this, compared to 18 per cent of those employed full-time and 23 per cent employed part-time).

More households reported having savings compared to before the pandemic, but a quarter (25 per cent) of households said that their savings balance had fallen during the crisis.  More than four in 10 (43 per cent) of those who are furloughed have no savings.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The pandemic has dragged hundreds of thousands of people the wrong wide of the resilience gap, and renters, self-employed people, lone parents and furloughed workers have been hit particularly hard.

“Overall, more households have savings than before the pandemic, and 13 per cent of people have been in a position to actually put more aside, but those in full time employment and people who own a house with a mortgage are much more likely to fall into this bracket.

“Meanwhile, a quarter have seen their savings fall, and vulnerable groups are more likely to have suffered. People on lower furlough incomes and the self-employed who lost work have been less able to save. Meanwhile, those who rent are more likely to have eaten into their savings to pay rent.

“They’ve struggled with their bills too. Renters have found it far harder to pay their bills: one in 10 are behind on rent, and almost one in four are behind on at least one bill. Lone parents are most likely to have fallen behind with bill payments.

“There are no simple answers when you’re facing this kind of pressure. A year on from the start of the crisis, there are no easy costs left to cut. There are also signs that people have already made bigger changes to their lives to keep a lid on costs. Around a fifth of privately rented households have increased by at least one person, which is a sign people are moving in with others to cut costs.”

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