5 October 2019 — Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Almost all two-bedroom homes available for rent across England, Scotland and Wales are too expensive for families on housing benefit, extensive research by the Bureau has found. Our reporters collected the details of more than 62,000 rental listings and found that less than 6% were affordable when mapped against the local housing benefit rates, which have been frozen since 2016.
The problem doesn’t end there. Once we’d built a list of affordable flats, we contacted almost 200 landlords across the country. Half of them told us flat out that they would not let to anyone on benefits. Of the rest, most of them wanted further conditions fulfilled, including six months’ rent in advance, or a guarantor – conditions many of those facing homelessness would find it impossible to meet.
It’s a crisis made all the worse by the fact councils are telling those at risk of homelessness to turn to the rental market. We’ve also investigated the latest government initiative to tackle homelessness and found it is severely underfunded, to the point where in some cases, all council housing officers can do is hand vulnerable people a list of property websites.
Again and again, we found evidence people were being left in limbo. We spoke to Sallie, who sleeps with the oven on and open to try to heat the small, damp room in a shelter she shares with her two small boys. We spoke to Mohammed, whose family of six share a single bedroom with his guide dog. And we spoke to Ruth, left to live in a caravan on a friend’s drive as landlord after landlord said “No benefits”.
We know these people deserve to be heard. Please, read and share their stories.
Click here to read the story in the Huffington Post
This is a story we could only tell by talking to dozens of people who had lived it. A story the Bureau Local was uniquely positioned to bring home to the councils up and down the country failing their constituents.
We are not finished telling it, and we will continue to investigate homelessness and the housing crisis. We would love for more people to join us – you can sign up to the Bureau Local network here: