Happy Valentine’s Day, renters! Your housing rights suck

Oh, god. Image: Getty.

The chief executive of Shelter on the charity’s latest research.

For many millennials there are few things less romantic to consider on Valentine’s Day than a lifetime of expensive renting. 

 It shouldn’t be this way, of course – but for far too many people, our private rented sector represents an unstable, insecure and expensive way to live. 

Our research out today shows that 39 per cent of millennial private renters (aged 25 – 34) are putting off having a child or growing their family because they are currently renting.   

That is a genuinely heart-breaking figure, because for many couples they have no choice. Home ownership is fast-becoming a pipe dream for most young people. House prices are as sky high. Even for those lucky enough to have saved a deposit, many can't even get on the housing ladder with Help to Buy.  

This wouldn’t be a problem if our private rented sector were fit for families to live in, as it is across much of Europe today. But renting in England is just not up to scratch. 

We have some of the shortest, least secure contracts. We found that private tenants have stronger legal power to choose whether to stay or leave their home in the majority of the European countries we studied in 2016. 

This situation leaves some private renters with little security to plan ahead in life. If you’re a young couple thinking about having kids, it’s understandable that you’d put this massive life decision off if you didn’t know how much you’d be paying in rent nine months from now.  

Beyond this chronic lack of stability, private renters often just don’t have they rights they need stick up for themselves if they are having problems with their landlord and feel they are being treated unfairly. This should really be a bare minimum in this country: the right to feel safe and secure in your home shouldn’t be seen as some kind of luxury.  

Lastly, but most importantly, renting is just far too expensive for many people. Renters spend more on average than home owners on their housing cost.  

In London, on average renters spend more than half of their income on rent. 


For some people this means they can’t save for a deposit to buy a home and escape this situation. But for those at the very sharp end of the situation, it can mean homelessness as they find themselves squeezed out of their rented home and with nowhere else to go.  In fact, losing your tenancy and not being able to find a new one is the main driver of homelessness in the UK.  

With all of these serious issues piling up, it’s not hard to see why renters often don’t feel the government are on their side. We have to get on and fix this. After all, the number of renters is rising so the government can’t shy away from the problem. The ban on letting fees was very welcome – but that has to be the first of a series of fixes to our renting crisis, not the last.  

Here’s what we need to do. Firstly, we need to give private renters much stronger rights so they can feel empowered to fight their landlord if they have to.  

Secondly, renters should be given the option of longer tenancies as a norm so they don’t have to hop between homes, incurring the costs as they go. Instead, they can feel assured that their rented home is theirs for years, not months.    

And we need to build tens of thousands more genuinely affordable homes to rent. Our housebuilding system has been stuck in second gear for decades now – and has focused on delivering more expensive homes rather than the genuinely affordable ones we really need.  

If we’re going to give people somewhere to live and make renting fit for families, these ideas really have to become a reality soon.

Polly Neate is chief executive of Shelter.

 
 
 
 

What’s killing northerners?

The Angel of the North. Image: Getty.

There is a stark disparity in wealth and health between people in the north and south of England, commonly referred to as England’s “north-south divide”. The causes of this inequality are complex; it’s influenced by the environment, jobs, migration and lifestyle factors – as well as the long-term political power imbalances, which have concentrated resources and investment in the south, especially in and around London.

Life expectancy is also lower in the north, mainly because the region is more deprived. But new analysis of national mortality data highlights a shockingly large mortality gap between young adults, aged 25 to 44, living in the north and south of England. This gap first emerged in the late 1990s, and seems to have been growing ever since.

In 1995, there were 2% more deaths among northerners aged 25 to 34 than southerners (in other words, 2% “excess mortality”). But by 2015, northerners in this age group were 29% more likely to die than their southern counterparts. Likewise, in the 35 to 44 age group, there was 3% difference in mortality between northerners and southerners in 1995. But by 2015, there were 49% more deaths among northerners than southerners in this age group.

Excess mortality in the north compared with south of England by age groups, from 1965 to 2015. Follow the lines to see that people born around 1980 are the ones most affected around 2015.

While mortality increased among northerners aged 25 to 34, and plateaued among 35 to 44-year-olds, southern mortality mainly declined across both age groups. Overall, between 2014 and 2016, northerners aged 25 to 44 were 41% more likely to die than southerners in the same age group. In real terms, this means that between 2014 and 2016, 1,881 more women and 3,530 more men aged between 25 and 44 years died in the north, than in the south.

What’s killing northerners?

To understand what’s driving this mortality gap among young adults, our team of researchers looked at the causes of death from 2014 to 2016, and sorted them into eight groups: accidents, alcohol related, cardiovascular related (heart conditions, diabetes, obesity and so on), suicide, drug related, breast cancer, other cancers and other causes.

Controlling for the age and sex of the population in the north and the south, we found that it was mostly the deaths of northern men contributing to the difference in mortality – and these deaths were caused mainly by cardiovascular conditions, alcohol and drug misuse. Accidents (for men) and cancer (for women) also played important roles.

From 2014 to 2016, northerners were 47% more likely to die for cardiovascular reasons, 109% for alcohol misuse and 60% for drug misuse, across both men and women aged 25 to 44 years old. Although the national rate of death from cardiovascular reasons has dropped since 1981, the longstanding gap between north and south remains.

Death and deprivation

The gap in life expectancy between north and south is usually put down to socioeconomic deprivation. We considered further data for 2016, to find out if this held true for deaths among young people. We found that, while two thirds of the gap were explained by the fact that people lived in deprived areas, the remaining one third could be caused by some unmeasured form of deprivation, or by differences in culture, infrastructure, migration or extreme weather.

Mortality for people aged 25 to 44 years in 2016, at small area geographical level for the whole of England.

Northern men faced a higher risk of dying young than northern women – partly because overall mortality rates are higher for men than for women, pretty much at every age, but also because men tend to be more susceptible to socioeconomic pressures. Although anachronistic, the expectation to have a job and be able to sustain a family weighs more on men. Accidents, alcohol misuse, drug misuse and suicide are all strongly associated with low socioeconomic status.

Suicide risk is twice as high among the most deprived men, compared to the most affluent. Suicide risk has also been associated with unemployment, and substantial increases in suicide have been observed during periods of recession – especially among men. Further evidence tells us that unskilled men between ages 25 and 39 are between ten and 20 times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes, compared to professionals.

Alcohol underpins the steep increase in liver cirrhosis deaths in Britain from the 1990s – which is when the north-south divide in mortality between people aged 25 to 44 also started to emerge. Previous research has shown that men in this age group, who live in the most deprived areas, are five times more likely to die from alcohol-related diseases than those in the most affluent areas. For women in deprived areas, the risk is four times greater.


It’s also widely known that mortality rates for cancer are higher in more deprived areas, and people have worse survival rates in places where smoking and alcohol abuse is more prevalent. Heroin and crack cocaine addiction and deaths from drug overdoses are also strongly associated with deprivation.

The greater number of deaths from accidents in the north should be considered in the context of transport infrastructure investment, which is heavily skewed towards the south – especially London, which enjoys the lowest mortality in the country. What’s more, if reliable and affordable public transport is not available, people will drive more and expose themselves to higher risk of an accident.

Deaths for young adults in the north of England have been increasing compared to those in the south since the late 1990s, creating new health divides between England’s regions. It seems that persistent social, economic and health inequalities are responsible for a growing trend of psychological distress, despair and risk taking among young northerners. Without major changes, the extreme concentration of power, wealth and opportunity in the south will continue to damage people’s health, and worsen the north-south divide.

The Conversation

Evangelos Kontopantelis, Professor in Data Science and Health Services Research, University of Manchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.