While the government has made a number of cost of living support payments available and frozen Ofgem’s energy price cap at £2,500 a year until April, for many, that has simply not been enough to compensate for a depressing decline in living standards.
Housing has been an especially tricky area, with rents climbing in Britain’s cities and properties still prohibitively expensive for many aspiring buyers, leaving millions only just managing to stay afloat on stagnating salaries and feeling hopeless.
However, there is state support available for those struggling with living expenses:
Housing Benefit/Universal Credit
If you are unable to pay your rent, you may be able to claim state benefits as further support.
Housing Benefit was previously the first port of call for UK residents attempting to rent property on a low income with savings below £16,000, although this is now being phased out in favour of Universal Credit (UC), which contains a specific housing support element.
UC’s housing payment is intended to help you pay rent to a private landlord, your rent and service charges if you are a tenant of a local authority or mortgage interest payments and service charges if you or your partner already owns your place of residence.
It can also help you if you are living in supported or sh
eltered housing that does not provide dedicated care, support and supervision services.
If you already receive UC, you can apply for housing payments via your online account.
If you wish to apply for this benefit for the first time, you can do that here.
Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)
If you are already in receipt of Housing Benefit or the housing element of UC but are still struggling to meet your commitments, you can apply to your local council for a DHP.
This is additional financial support made available to people to pay their existing rent or to pay a deposit or rent in advance when moving into a new home.
It cannot be used to cover council tax, however, the government stipulates.
You will be asked to explain your circumstances in as much detail as possible when applying and the amount of money awarded will be decided according to an assessment of your specific needs.
Should the council reject your application and you consider that verdict unfair, you can appeal the decision.
Rent to Buy
This is a scheme that helps tenants in England (outside of London) to save for a deposit to buy a home of their own by offering properties for rent at around 20 per cent the market average.
The scheme is open to anyone in part-time or full-time work, prospective first-time buyers or those able to pay their rent while putting savings aside, according to the government, adding that landlords may wish to check your income or credit history when considering eligibility.
To apply, you simply need to find a property participating in the scheme and express your interest.
If you are considered eligible and it is available, you will be offered the place on a two-year tenancy that you may be able to extend thereafter if you require additional time to save up for a deposit and get a mortgage.
You can look for possible residences via the government site, which divides England into the North, Midlands and South, making a search tool available for each region.
London Living Rent
The London-specific equivalent of Rent to Buy is this scheme funded by the mayor of London’s office to make “genuinely affordable” homes available to people who live and work in the capital and want to make the transition from renting to earning their own place.
It promises “stable tenancies, with rents based on a third of local household incomes”, with the savings you make intended to go towards a deposit on your own home, as is the case with Rent to Buy.
How much rent you might pay under the scheme “will vary according to where you live in London”, the scheme’s website explains, adding: “Across London, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom London Living Rent home is around £1,077 a month, almost three quarters of the median market rent.”
To be eligible, you need to live or work in London, have a formal tenancy or live in an informal arrangement with family or friends as a result of struggling with housing costs, have a maximum income of £60,000 a year, not own any other residence and be unable to currently buy a home in your local area.
Those interested in finding a London Living Rent property are pointed to the Homes for Londoner’s dedicated search tool.
For more information on help and support with housing and rent, please visit Citizens Advice.