The vast majority of people who are renting do so not out of choice but out of necessity. The availability of social housing is extremely limited – a recent estimate suggested that only one in four applications are successful. House prices have risen over 25% since 20163, and it’s estimated that a first time buyer on average will need a household income of over £54,000 to secure a mortgage4, in addition to their deposit.
All these factors have pushed more individuals and families to turn to long-term private renting, which in turn contributes to scarcity and rising rents.
Many renters have had to move away from Frome, even when their jobs, families and support networks are in the town.
Over the past few years, FHfF has heard some alarming stories from people living in both social and private rented properties about unsafe living conditions, overcrowded accommodation, unstable tenancies, and illegal entry of their homes by landlords and lettings agencies.
The survey we carried out in 2019 (see below) revealed that 49% of private renters and 53% of social renters (people renting from housing associations) said that they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their housing.
Reasons given were (in this order): unaffordable rent, unreasonable agents’ fees, short tenancies, lack of housing for families, poor conditions, overcrowding, and lack of choice.
With funding from TDS, FHfF carried out a project in the first half of 2019 to consult renters in the town via a survey, touring exhibition, market stalls and a drop-in. This gave us a clearer picture of the concerns, experiences and needs of renters.
We have also been working with organisations such as Shelter, The Ethical Landlords Association, Acorn Renters Union, Generation Rent and Marks Out of Tenancy, to identify how we and others can offer effective support.
As first steps, we have produced information leaflets for tenants and for those interested in lodging, and have run a social media campaign providing information and advice on a range of topics (the most popular, ‘Lets with Pets’, reached over 1000 people).
In November 2019, FHfF set up the Frome Housing Noticeboard, a virtual noticeboard on facebook designed to help connect local renters and landlords, which will be supplemented by a physical noticeboard in Frome Library.
We also hope to find new ways of engaging renters, for example through support groups or networks, as well as addressing some of the concrete challenges that renters face.