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Two in five UK households struggling or behind with housing costs

Housing costs Cost of living crisis. Money on a home radiator heater. Rising cost of energy and bills
Housing costs: Nearly half of social renters reported being unable to switch the heating on when needed. Photo: PA/Alamy (Ink Drop)

Over two-in-five (44%) working age households are struggling with or falling behind on their housing costs amid a cost of living crisis.

The proportion of those who have fallen behind or are struggling has jumped by almost 70% compared to the peak of the pandemic, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation.

Renters are at the sharp end of the crisis, as private and social rents are rising at their fastest rates in a decade, on top of wider cost of living increases.

Researchers found 8% of private renters reported falling behind on housing costs in the three months leading up to November 2022.

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Nearly a fifth (19%) of social renters reported falling behind with their housing costs, as did 4% of mortgage holders. Some of those surveyed owned their home outright.

Cara Pacitti, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “With many renters reaching the limits of already depleted finances, this squeeze is having profound impacts on their household budgets and wellbeing.”

Read more: Poorest and elderly worst hit as income inequality rises

The crisis has also put a considerable strain on people’s wellbeing, according to the think tank.

More than two-in-five private and social renters (41% and 44% respectively) reported feeling fairly or very worried about covering their housing costs over the winter, compared to almost a third of mortgagors (31%).

Nearly half (48%) of social renters reported being unable to afford to replace electrical goods, or switch the heating on when needed.

The situation for households is set to worsen in the months ahead as housing costs continue to rise – with private rental prices expected to continue increasing and interest rate rises pushing up mortgage costs for the 2 million households flowing onto new fixed-rate mortgages next year.

But with renters already more likely to be struggling with costs and worrying about affording housing costs over the next three months, the Resolution Foundation warned that it was “clear that renters are facing the toughest year ahead.”

“With many renters reaching the limits of already depleted finances, this squeeze is having profound impacts on their household budgets and wellbeing. As housing costs are set to continue rising, the situation for renters will worsen without further policy intervention,” Pacitti added.

Read more: Over 150,000 households needed help for first time with rising food and energy bills

The Foundation, which is focused on improving living standards for people on low to middle incomes, commissioned a YouGov survey which included nearly 8,000 working age people aged 18 to 65 across the UK in November 2022 for its latest research.

The findings were compared with a previous YouGov survey in January 2021 of more than 6,300 18 to 65-year-olds.

A range of cost-of-living support measures are in place to help households, including targeted support for those who are particularly vulnerable.

People can find out more about the help available at helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk.

Watch: How to save money on a low income