Four million families’ homes on a knife-edge

ALMOST four million families in Britain are just one pay-cheque away from losing their homes, according to a new report from the housing charity Shelter.

Shelter says its figures reveal that millions of householders in this country would not be able to pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they lost their job.

A survey of 7,539 working adults who pay rent or a mortgage found that, with little or no savings to fall back on, 29 per cent — that’s 3.8 million families nationwide — could be just one paycheque away from losing their home.

Worryingly the research also found that more than a third of families would not be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment if they were to lose their job this month.

Kate Murray lives with her five-year-old daughter and disabled mother. In October 2013 she lost her job as a business manager with only three days’ notice when the company she worked for went bankrupt.

Kate said: “They hadn’t been paying me properly, so I’d begun to fall behind on my mortgage. Then I got the letter through the door saying they wanted to take my house back. I was petrified. I thought what am I going to do? How am I going to tell my daughter and my mum that we have to move out?”

Mirroring Shelter’s research are the latest Government figures on savings, which reveal that 15 million working age adults in Britain have no savings at all.

Liz Clare, a Shelter helpline advisor, said: “This research highlights how millions of us now find ourselves living on a financial knife-edge — month to month, pay-cheque to paycheque. Every day we see how just one piece of bad luck, like a sudden job loss or illness, could put the family home at risk.

“Sky-high housing costs and stagnating wages mean most of us don’t have enough money in the bank to rely on for long enough to get back on our feet.”

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “No matter how hard ordinary families work, in today’s ‘knife-edge nation’ a drop in income can all too quickly put their home at serious risk. If you lose your job finding another one is hard enough, but without a stable place to live it’s almost impossible.

“The Government must make sure the safety net is strong enough to stop families falling through the gaps, and going through the nightmare of losing their homes.”

Around 40 per cent of incomes in Britain are spent on housing, the third highest portion in Europe. The recent squeeze on wages, which have been in real terms decline as prices rise more quickly than pay, has left families with little to save at the end of the month. Most of the money goes on basic living costs. A report by LSL Property Services at the end of 2013 found that rents had risen at twice the rate of weekly earnings, with the average hitting £763 a month in England and Wales.