There’s a growing crisis in the private rented sector due to the lack of suitable properties available, according to councils up and down the country.
The District Councils Network, a network of 183 councils across England, warned that a sharp rise in landlords selling up or converting their homes into Airbnbs is creating a big problem.
Some three quarters (76%) of councils said there’s been a rise in housing waiting lists, causing more people to lose homes and making it harder to find permanent accommodation for those in need.
Half (48%) of these councils said they were now experiencing a significant pressure on housing services as a result.
As a result they called for the government to invest in more council housebuilding and raise the benefit cap.
Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, chair of the District Councils Network, said: “This survey reveals a perfect storm of problems creating a crisis in the private rented sector across the country.
“Now the government’s Eviction Ban has ended, this is a problem that could get worse, with councils also seeing increase in the numbers of tenants needing housing support due to increased evictions due to rent arrears.
“During the pandemic, district councils and the government worked together to help protect those who are most vulnerable through the Everyone In initiative, the temporary banning of no-fault evictions, and other measures such as furlough and the Universal Credit uplift.
“We need to urgently tackle this issue by permanently lifting housing benefit for tenants in private rented housing and for increase in government support to invest in a renaissance of council house building to create homes, jobs and growth.”
Shortages are particularly bad in councils areas popular with tourists, with landlords switching their properties to more profitable short term holiday lets.
One council in a popular tourist destination in the south-west of England has reported a nearly 80% drop in the number of open market, long-term rental accommodation available in their local authority area over the last three years, with many landlords leaving the market or providing short term accommodation for holiday makers instead.
Rents in the private rented sector have reached a thirteen year high according to Zoopla, rising by 6% year-on-year.
Councils are reporting that this rise is forcing some long term tenants to apply for hardship support from their local authority, with some council areas seeing rents rise to over a third higher than the average salary in their local area.
Councils warned that the housing benefit many receive will not be sufficient in the longer term, as the government looks set to keep Local Housing Allowance rates, which determines the amount of benefit received, frozen over the next year.
According to the report some landlords are leaving the market due to the impact of the pandemic, with tenants unable to afford their rents. Meanwhile landlords are moving into properties themselves.
The District Councils Network wants the government to give councils the tools to create their own permanent housing for people in their communities in hardship.
District councils said they stand ready to work with government to proactively increase the supply and quality of homes for benefit claimants, ensuring those in need can have a permanent roof over their heads in their local communities in the future.
Eleanor Bateman, policy offficer for Propertymark, said: “Concerns over a shrinking private rented sector is not a new conversation, but it is one that is not being acknowledged.
“If the situation continues to be ignored by decision makers fixated on taking a piecemeal approach to legislation we shouldn’t be surprised if the number of people on housing waiting lists skyrocket.
“With the removal of Section 21 on the table, unrealistic energy efficiency targets, and the attraction of short-term letting, the UK government will find that the private rented sector continues to diminish, and homelessness will rise. The sector needs high standards and regulation, but it must work for both landlords and tenants.
“As we await their Renters’ Reform White Paper, it’s imperative the UK government recognises that the balance has swayed too far. There are too few incentives for investors in the private rented sector, and regulatory and tax levers must be reviewed to avoid unintended consequences.”