How are Britons faring with rent and mortgages?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
July 06, 2023, 7:20 AM GMT+0

Most renters are struggling, and many with mortgages expect to do so in the next 12 months

With rising interest rates and other housing issues causing havoc with the public’s finances, a new YouGov survey explores how Britons are faring with their housing costs, how well government and mortgage lenders are responding, and who they hold responsible for the current housing situation.

One in three with mortgages say they are finding it difficult to pay their mortgages, with more expecting to do so within a year

One in three Britons who own their home with a mortgage say they currently find it difficult to afford their mortgage payments, including 9% who find it “very difficult”.

When asked to look ahead, these figures increase significantly: 47% think it will be hard to afford their mortgage payments in a year’s time, including 21% who expect it to be very difficult.

Most renters are already finding it hard to keep up with the rent

Renters are more likely to report difficulty making their housing payments: 55% say they are finding it hard to do so, including 15% finding it very difficult.

However, when asked how hard they think it will be in 12 months, the number of renters saying so falls to 51% (although the number thinking it will be ‘very’ difficult actually rises to 20%). This is because more renters shift to the ‘don’t know’ column when asked to predict how things will be in 12 months (from 5% to 18%), likely indicating a lack of certainty over their landlords’ intentions, their own uncertainty about staying in their current property, or more precarious employment than Britons with mortgages.

Just over half of renters (54%) have seen their landlord increase their rent in the last 12 months, with the median rental cost increase 9%.

Britons think renters are currently suffering more than those with mortgages

While the economy has brought bad news for both renters and people with mortgages, it is the former group that Britons think are having a worse time of things. Four in ten say people who are renting are struggling more (41%), compared to 30% who think those with mortgages are facing greater hardships.

Private renters are under no doubts about this, with 58% saying renters have things worse compared to 21% who believe that applies to those with mortgages. By contrast, Britons with a mortgage are split: 39% think people like themselves are struggling most, while 36% say that renters are.

Most Britons support government assistance on mortgages and rent

While the government has ruled out financial support for people to pay their mortgages, the majority of Britons would back such support – and for renters too.

A majority favour financial support for homeowners to pay mortgage costs (54%), rising to six in ten for renters to pay rental costs (60%).

Among Britons with a mortgage, 62% back financial support for those with mortgages, and likewise 77% of private renters back financial support for rental costs.

Britons who own their home outright oppose financial support on mortgages by 51% to 37%, and are divided on rent assistance by 44% to 44%.

People with mortgages tend to say Jeremy Hunt’s deal with mortgage providers will help them

On 23 June, chancellor Jeremy Hunt agreed a voluntary package of mortgage assistance with mortgage providers, including 12 month grace periods before repossessions and allowing people to temporarily extend their mortgage terms or switch to interest-only repayments.

Each of the six measures we asked about is supported by at least two thirds of Britons, and 45% of people with mortgages say the changes would help them, compared to only 14% who say they would not be helpful (33% say they don’t need mortgage help in the first place).

Britons say mortgage lenders aren’t offering enough support, and the government is handling the issue badly

Nevertheless, Britons still tend to say that banks and mortgage lenders are providing too little support regarding mortgage repayments. Almost half (46%) think so, compared to only 25% who think the level of support is about adequate.

Among Britons who are struggling with their mortgage payments themselves, fully 69% say the banks and mortgage lenders are providing too little support, with just 22% saying they are providing the right amount of support.

Meanwhile, a previous YouGov poll found 67% of Britons say the government is handling the issue of mortgages badly. Similarly, the proportion of Britons saying the government is badly handling the issue of housing in general has hit a successive high of 74%, the largest since we started tracking in mid-2019.

Who do Britons hold responsible for the housing problems the UK faces?

The Tory governments since 2010 top the list of entities Britons blame for the country’s current housing woes, with 71% saying they hold a great deal or fair amount of responsibility.

It is a close contest for second place, with housebuilders and developers (63%), older Conservative governments (62%) and local councils (61%) all in contention.

The Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown get less blame (52%), as do older Labour governments (36%).

Among Tory voters, the recent Conservative governments since 2010 don’t escape blame, with 63% holding them responsible – tied for second with housebuilders and developers. However, Tories are most likely to blame local councils for the country’s housing problems, at 69%.

Most Conservative voters likewise point the finger of blame at New Labour (60%), banks (56%) and immigrants (56%). Twentieth century Conservative governments are also held responsible by 53% of Tories.

Labour voters overwhelmingly blame the last 13 years’ Tory governments (89%), and in second place come older Conservative administrations (80%). Housebuilders (72%) and banks (68%) also score highly.

Labour voters are much more likely to blame older generations of Britons for the nation’s housing woes (41%) than Tory voters (18%).

See the full results here

Photo: Getty