(This is the second in five posts regarding housing in Hastings based on a briefing paper prepared by my colleague Sue Hennell. Yesterday I wrote about Universal credit and how the six week wait for the first payment was causing problems for people trying to get accommodation in the private rented sector)
There are a number of reasons why there is more difficulty in accessing private rented accommodation in Hastings at this time.
The Local Housing Allowance Levels have not kept pace with rent increases: The average monthly rent for a single room in a shared house in Hastings is £360 per calendar month and the Local Housing Allowance is £279, the shortfall per month is £81. For a tenant who is in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance at the rate of £57.90 (under 25s) or £73.10 (over 25s) per week this would mean using £18.69 per week to just cover their rent. For a one bed room flat, the average rent is £426 per calendar month and the Local Housing Allowance is £368.20, the shortfall being £57.80 per month. It is the same for families:
Number of bedrooms
|Local Housing Allowance||Average rent price in Hastings*||Median rent price in Hastings*|
*taken from Hastings Market Rent Summary (home.co.uk)
Reluctance to house people on benefits: Private sector landlords have always been reluctant to take tenants in receipt of Local Housing Allowance but it would appear they are even more reluctant with housing costs payments under Universal Credit. BHT’s Housing Access Project undertook a ‘secret shopping’ exercise with 25 local letting agents in Hastings in August 2016 and 75% said that they would not take on tenants in receipt of the Local Housing Allowance (this was before the full roll out of Universal Credit) and the rest responded that they might possibly do so.
Rent in advance: Those private sector landlords that will take tenants in receipt of the above benefits require rent in advance, 6 weeks rent in advance, deposits, guarantors and fees. Whilst it is possible to get the rent in advance and deposit for one month via different routes (e.g. Hastings Borough Council) the 6 weeks rent in advance and access to guarantors is more difficult for people who are poor and/or claiming benefits.
Rental increases following welcomed improvements: Hastings introduced selective licensing for certain areas in order to address poor standards of housing. Whilst this is really good news some private sector landlord cannot afford to upgrade their properties so have pulled out of the market and where properties have been renovated rents have increased.
The question I asked yesterday was where will people live if social housing is not keeping up with need and private landlords are less willing to rent to claimants? I add a further point today: where will people live if they simply cannot afford the high cost of rents?
We are a nation in the midst of the worst housing crisis in living memory, if not ever. And it will only get worse.
If you are facing eviction due to rent arrears, get advice early from one of BHT’s Advice Centres in Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton, the CAB or another advice centre.
Here are details of the BHT Advice Centres: