Getting ahead on falling behind

Tackling the UK’s building arrears crisis

This briefing note examines how families have managed their housing costs over the Covid-19 period. Although the Government has done much to support families over the past year (not least via the furlough scheme and the £20 per week uplift to UC), it is clear that financial strain has grown as the pandemic has worn on. Using new data from a representative survey of UK working-age adults, we show that housing arrears have grown steadily over the crisis, and that renters are at the sharp end when it comes to housing cost pressures.

2021 may look set to be brighter year, but the stock of housing debt that has built up over the pandemic will not resolve itself. We identify a clear and continuing role for policy in supporting incomes directly to avoid the situation getting worse. But alongside this, action is also required to mediate effectively between those who owe and are owed, and to help families reduce their housing arrears via both grants and loans.