Fears that families in Kingston are facing a coming housing crisis have been expressed, following new research published by housing and homelessness charity Shelter (13th October) that identifies Kingston as a problem borough. The paper called “Private Rent Watch” finds that average private rents in Kingston upon Thames are unaffordable for the majority of ordinary working families, with the borough placed among the worst 8 per cent nationally. Data gathered by Shelter characterises Kingston as “extremely unaffordable”,based on average rents costing more than half of median levels of full-time take-home pay.
According to Shelter, residents renting two bedroom homes in Kingston pay an average of £1,107 a month, placing Kingston 24th out of the top 30 most unaffordable boroughs in the country, based directly on what a home costs to rent as a proportion of local full-time take home pay. A social housing professional, Susan May, says the Shelter survey indicates that those priced out of home ownership are struggling to meet the costs of renting:
“The economic downturn and banking crisis has made buying harder, so rising demand for private renting has driven up rents to unaffordable levels. Even for those with work, the cost of living in Kingston is hitting hard. For those dependent on benefits, when the Coalition’s housing benefit cuts start biting in autumn next year, some families will begin to struggle and could be forced from their homes.”
As part of a range of benefit cuts, a benefit called Local Housing Allowance – the money claimants receive towards the cost of their housing – will be brought into line with the bottom third of private sector rents, rather than the bottom half as is the case now, from September 2012. The Kingston Anti-Cuts Group says this measure will force residents to uproot their families, or cut back on essentials such as food and heating.
Susan May added:
“Rather than cutting housing benefits to reduce ballooning benefit costs, the government must look at reducing rocketing rental costs. One step would be to move towards forcing unused buildings into use.”
Shelter is calling for government to take urgent action to stabilise a rental market that is out of control, and develop policies to bring rents more in line with average earnings. From 1997 to 2007, rents increased at one and a half times the rate of incomes. Recent research by Shelter showed that 38 per cent of families with children who are renting privately have cut down on buying food to pay their rent.
Full figures on Kingston upon Thames available at: