More than a quarter of renters already struggle to heat their homes in winter as the gas price spike promises a “perfect storm for homelessness”, a charity has said.
A survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the housing charity Shelter found 26% of renters could not keep their homes warm in winter, equivalent to 5.3 million in England.
With energy prices rising, the furlough scheme due to end on Thursday and Universal Credit being cut a week later, the charity has called for urgent action to protect renters from the threat of eviction and homelessness.
Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “The triple whammy of the furlough scheme ending, cuts to Universal Credit and rocketing fuel prices may be the final straw for many renters barely hanging on to their homes.
“We are facing a perfect storm for homelessness to rise, and the new housing secretary must get a handle on the situation before winter arrives.”
So far, the Government has maintained that its priority throughout the gas crisis is protecting consumers, with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng saying the energy price cap would remain in place.
However, that cap is due to rise at the start of October and some consumers could also see their bills increase if their supplier collapses and they have to be moved to a different company.
On Tuesday, Mr Kwarteng acknowledged during a BBC interview that it could be “a difficult winter” for families, some of whom may have to choose between eating and heating their homes.
In a statement on Friday, Ms Neate said: “Our research shows that one in four renters couldn’t keep their homes warm in winter, even before this latest price hike.
“No parent should have to choose between putting the heating on, food on the table or paying their rent – but that is the reality for so many families right now. And our helpline is already inundated with calls from people who are terrified of being evicted.
“Renters urgently need a lifeline. The Government must reverse its decision to cut Universal Credit and provide emergency grants to renters with Covid arrears to pay off their debts. Otherwise, homelessness will regrettably rise.”