The pandemic has been very tough on those with least in the UK

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The Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities has released the third wave of the Household Resilience Survey, carried out during April and May 2021. The finding are stark enough to simply share them:

Main findings

There were more households in mortgage arrears in April-May 2021 than there were before the pandemic.

  • In April-May 2021, 2% of mortgagors were in arrears, higher than the pre- pandemic rate of 0.5%. This is following the return to pre-pandemic levels we saw in November-December 2020 (1%) but is lower than the initial increase to 6% we saw in June-July 2020.
  • In addition to the 2% in mortgage arrears, 10% of mortgagors reported finding it rather or very difficult to keep up with their mortgage payments in the last year, unchanged from previous waves of the Household Resilience Study, but up from pre-pandemic rate of 4% in 2019-20.

Private rental arrears remain higher than they were pre-pandemic.

  • In April-May 2021, 7% of private renters were currently in arrears, up from 3% in 2019-20 but unchanged from November-December 2020 when 9% were in arrears (the difference is not statistically significant). A further 9% of private renters said they were very or fairly likely to fall behind with rent payments in the next three months.

While more likely to be in arrears than private renters, over the course of the pandemic, the proportion of social renters in arrears has not changed.

  • In April-May 2021, 13% of social renters were in arrears. The apparent increase in the proportion of social renters in arrears, from 11% in 2019-20, is not statistically significant.

One in ten households were behind with at least one household bill in April- May 2021; more than one in five had recently used their savings to pay their rent or mortgage.

  • 10% of households were behind with at least one household bill (e.g. utility bills, credit cards, other loans or other bills) in April-May 2021, lower than the proportion in this situation in November-December 2020 (12%).
  • This varied by tenure. Owner occupiers were less likely to be behind than renters, with 3% of outright owners behind with one or more bill, whilst 5% of those buying with a mortgage were behind. For private renters, 17% were behind with one or more bill, as were 25% of social renters.
  • In April-May 2021, 22% of households had recently used their savings to pay their rent or mortgage. Renters were more likely than mortgagors to have used their savings for this purpose (29% of private renters and 28% of social renters compared with 19% of mortgagors).

Over half of households said their income did not change between November- December 2020 and April-May 2021; fewer households reported that their income had decreased and more reported that their income had increased.

  • Respondents were asked whether there had been changes to their household income since November-December 2020. Over half (53%) reported that their income had not changed. One in five (21%) said it had changed, but by less than £100 a month. Meanwhile, 12% reported their income had decreased by at least £100 (down from 17% reporting this in November-December 2020) and 14% said it had increased by at least £100 (up from 11% in November-December 2020).

The proportion of renters who expect to buy their own home has declined further.

  • In 2019-20, 59% of private renters and 28% of social renters said that they expected to buy their own home at some point in the future. By June-July 2020, these proportions had decreased, with 49% of private renters and 24% of social renters saying that they expected to buy their own home. In April-May 2021, expectations to buy among renters declined further with 45% of private renters and 20% of social renters saying that they expect to buy their own home.

Overcrowding remains higher than it was pre-pandemic, particularly in the private rented sector.

  • In April-May 2021, 5% of households were overcrowded, up from 4% in 2019-20 and unchanged from November-December 2020. This corresponds to 1.2 million overcrowded households in April-May 2021, up from 829,000 in 2019-20.
  • Rates of overcrowding varied by tenure, with owner occupiers less likely to be overcrowded than renters. In April-May 2021, 1% of outright owners and 4% of mortgagors were living in overcrowded accommodation. In the rented sectors, 14% of private renters and 9% of social renters lived in overcrowded accommodation in April-May 2021,
  • Compared to 2019-20, overcrowding has increased for owner occupiers (1% to 2%) and private renters (from 7% to 14%) but is unchanged for social renters.

People’s satisfaction with their local area declined slightly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • In April-May 2021, 84% of respondents said that they were either very or fairly satisfied with their local area as a place to live, down from 87% in 2019-20.
  • Satisfaction with the local area varied by tenure, with owners more satisfied than renters, though satisfaction has declined across all tenures since 2019-20. In April-May 2021, 88% of owner occupiers, 78% of private renters and 74% of social renters said that they were either very or fairly satisfied with their local area as a place to live (down from 90%, 84% and 79% respectively in 2019-20.

For home owners, well-being levels are starting to improve but not to pre- pandemic levels.

  • Between November-December 2020 and April-May 2021, life satisfaction increased across the population, driven by an increase in life satisfaction among owner occupiers. Happiness levels also increased, also driven by an increase among owner occupiers. Over the same period, anxiety scores decreased for owner occupiers. No such changes were observed among renters.