Surge in demand for advice services as housing costs rise

By staff writers
23 Apr 2013

The housing and homelessness charity Shelter says it has seen a surge in demand for its advice services as the high cost of housing, rising living costs and cuts to housing support leave rising numbers of people struggling to pay for their homes.

Shelter reported a 40 per cent increase in the numbers of callers in England helped with housing costs, arrears and other debt issues during the last year, while in the last six months alone, visitors to the charity's online housing costs advice have doubled.

Shelter’s research reveals that people who are currently struggling to pay their rent or mortgage have few options for increasing their income: only 21 per cent said they or their partner are able to get extra hours at work, and just 26 per cent said they could get a second job.

Last month Shelter reported that almost a third of people have already cut back on food in order to pay housing costs.

With further benefit cuts beginning to hit, the charity says it is concerned that even more people will be left desperately trying to find the means to pay for their home.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s Chief Executive said: "This research highlights the frightening lack of options available to people who are fighting to keep a roof over their head. Sadly, with little remaining of the housing safety net meant to support them in tough times, many can quickly find themselves at risk of losing their home.

"Every day we speak to people who are on the brink and have nowhere left to turn. But getting early support from a charity like Shelter can help families get back in control of their finances and prevent the downward spiral that can ultimately lead to homelessness.

Shelter said a chronic lack of affordable homes in the UK means the situation is set to get worse. The housing shortage has forced house prices up, which has had the knock-on effect of forcing potential homeowners into the expensive private rental sector.

Just 121,200 homes were built in England in 2010-11, according to government figures. This compares to 132,000 in 2000-01 and around 260,000 in the late 1960s.

The 2007 Housing Green Paper set a target of 240,000 new homes a year by 2016, including affordable homes for young families. A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Ministers would argue that target was never going to be reached."

[Ekk/4]

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