The big read: High rents in Sheffield are pushing families into homelessness as city faces 'housing emergency'
High private renting costs, hazardous accommodation, and a loss of social homes is the perfect storm of factors causing a housing emergency in Sheffield, a new report warns today.
Housing charity Shelter has released its new report condemning the rising cost of rents in Sheffield and called on the government to commit to building more social housing as part of its ‘levelling up’ agenda.
The Levelling Up With Social Housing report found that in Sheffield between 2015-2020 there was a net loss of over 1,500 social homes in the city despite a growing need, with some 23,000 families on the waiting list for social housing,
A Shelter Sheffield client, aged 38, who will be referred to as Catherine to protect her identity, and her two children, aged 10 and 17, were plunged into a hectic combination of homelessness, sofa surfing and the private rented sector over a four-year period.
The rising cost of rent alongside Catherine’s disability meant she had to rely on housing benefit and cut back on essentials, but when her tenancy was put up for renewal, unable to find a guarantor, the family were made homeless and separated.
Catherine said: “When I left, the landlord put the rent up £100.
"I knew I’d never be able to afford somewhere else, as I could only just afford there. I was put in temporary accommodation while the kids had to stay with my parents.”
Catherine was not alone in her situation. Shelter found almost 3,000 Sheffield households were made homeless or threatened with homelessness in 2020-21.
Eventually, Catherine and her children were placed in social housing accommodating , and the stability this has afforded them has changed their lives.
Catherine added: “My daughter’s birthday was in October. She wished for a house. Then, in November, we got one.
"My daughter has been unsettled since she was four. She’s been in and out of places, not knowing where home is, and now she talks about going home for the first time. It’s amazing.
“They are chucking houses up but they aren’t affordable. We need more social housing. It's not rocket science.”
Shelter’s report found that while the average rent for a social home in Sheffield is £317 per month, for a privately rented house it is £575, making private rents 81 per cent more expensive on average.
The Telegraph found a three bedroom terrace house on Neill Road, Hunters Bar, that is currently available to rent for £1,250 per month.
Additionally, 28 per cent of private rented properties were found to have category one hazards such as excess cold or risk of falls, while this was the case in just four per cent of social homes.
Tracey Nathan, hub manager at Shelter Sheffield, said: “We believe a safe home is a human right, but the pain and desperation our frontline staff see every day shows this is still a long way off.
"This is especially evident in Sheffield, where the last year has seen huge numbers in the private rented sector having to turn to housing benefit to help pay the rent.”
The report confirmed that there is a polarisation in the quality of housing between east and west Sheffield as well as the oft reported disparity in life expectancy.
In the west of Sheffield, rents are ‘especially high’, which prices out those on lower incomes.
In the east of the city, rents are lower, but so too are wages. The report said a Sheffield housing assessment had found one third of all households were priced out of private renting.
And between February 2020 and April 2021, there was a 46 per cent increase in private renters claiming housing benefit.
The report focused on three UK locations: Sheffield, Burnley, and Plymouth, but Tracy said that there were a lot of areas across the UK they could have picked because these issues are stark in so many locations.
She added: “What we know in Sheffield exemplifies what we know is going on in a lot of other places. It is a result of years of disinvestment in social housing and there is a lot of catching up to do.
"More and more people have a shortfall between income and rent.
"We are absolutely seeing clients who are working and clients who are in work and on universal credit because their income is not sufficient.
“Housing instability causes incredible stress within a family. It causes massive disruption to children’s education, friendship groups and relationships with wider family members. And the instability often flows through to later life and those children may end up homeless as adults. “It is an awful cycle.
“What the government needs to know about ‘Levelling Up’ is that without a clear commitment to building social housing specifically, this may prove impossible. You cannot solve the housing emergency without building decent homes people can afford to live in.
“A tangible improvement in people’s housing situation would significantly boost living standards, increase opportunities and truly represent levelling up.”