Cost of living crisis: ONS research finds renters struggling to pay rent and housing costs as bills soar

The analysis shows around nine in 10 adults reported an increase in their cost of living in March 2022

The cost of living crisis is affecting renters across the countryThe cost of living crisis is affecting renters across the country
The cost of living crisis is affecting renters across the country

Two-fifths of British renters are struggling to pay housing costs while almost one in three reported an increase in rent during the last six months, a new report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found.

Figures published today (25 April) in the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) shows how the cost of living crisis is affecting people across the country.

The figures show renters are in more precarious financial positions than those with mortgages, as they were more likely to be behind on housing payments.

The Government said a multi-billion pound package of help (including the £150 council tax rebate) was available – but homeless charity Crisis said rent hikes could be the final blow for people as it warned about about a coming “tidal wave of homelessness”

How are renters being affected by the cost of living crisis?

The analysis shows renters were more likely to be behind on housing payments than mortgagors.

When asked “how easy or difficult is it to afford your rent or mortgage payments?” and “are you behind on your rent or mortgage payments?”, 39% of renters said it was very or somewhat difficult to afford rent, while 6% were in arrears.

In comparison, 21% of property owners said it was very or somewhat difficult to afford payments and fewer than 1% were behind on payments.

The survey is based on samples from 3,100 people aged 16 and over in Great Britain. Northern Ireland residents were not included.


Renters have also been more likely to see bills increase than mortgagors.

When asked “have your rent or mortgage payments gone up in the last six months?" just over a third (34%) said their rent had increased. For homeowners, 19% said they had seen an increase in payments.


People living in the most deprived areas also accounted for the largest share of adults who were behind on housing payments.

The analysis also found rent arrears are consistently higher in the social rented sector than the private rented sector or for owner occupiers. "According to the English Housing Survey, 8% of social renters said that they were in arrears in 2020-21, versus 4% of private renters and 1% of owner occupiers.

What needs to be done to help renters and other vulnerable people?

Matt Downie, chief executive at Crisis, said the figures make it “clear that housing is at the root of the cost-of-living crisis but up to now has been ignored”.

Mr Downie said: “The stark reality is that thousands of renters are spending their days worrying about losing their home.

“With inflation soaring and energy bills rising to unprecedented levels, people are already feeling the strain and going without essentials to keep up with their rising living costs. When you add a rent hike on top, for many people this will be the final blow that pushes them into homelessness.

“It does not have to be this way. By investing in housing benefit so it covers the true cost of rents, the Government has the means to prevent a tidal wave of homelessness before it’s too late.”

What is the Government doing to help people throughout the crisis?

A spokesperson for the Government said it  had launched a £22 billion package of support which includes the £150 council tax rebate and a £200 energy bill discount in October to cut energy bills.

The spokesperson said: "We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we have set out a £22 billion package of support. This includes putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families via changes to Universal Credit.

“Our Private Rented Sector White Paper in the spring will set out reforms to make renting fairer for all."

Further analysis by the ONS shows there has been a rise in the number of adults reporting an increase in the cost of living.

Around nine in 10 adults (87%) reported an increase in their cost of living in March 2022 (between 16 to 27 March 2022), a 25 percentage point increase compared with 62% of adults in November 2021 (3 to 14 November 2021).


Commenting on the findings, Hugh Stickland from the ONS, said: “Today’s analysis shows nearly nine out of 10 adults tell us they have seen an increase in their cost of living over the last month.

“This is impacting people’s financial resilience, with more telling us they are finding it harder to pay bills, and more unable to save money in the next 12 months”.