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Over a quarter of Britons fear they will fall into rent or mortgage arrears in 2016, according to a survey by a housing charity. The poll, commissioned by Shelter and conducted by YouGov, found 29% were worried about being able to pay their rent or mortgage at some point in the year.
Mortgage payers have one eye on the Bank of England which will eventually raise interest rates. The base rate is at 0.5%, an all-time low, where it has sat since 2009 to keep credit cheap and money flowing into the economy while it healed from the financial crisis. Now the economy is recovering strongly, policy-makers want to gradually raise interest rates to more normal levels, though they have some concerns about the recent market turmoil and low inflation.
And renters have seen sharp rises in housing costs in recent years. The average rents in England rose 5.26% between 2011 and 2015, well ahead of pay during the same period. In London, where there is a severe housing shortage, the average rent jumped 25.58%. Pressures on household incomes, with wages in real-terms decline for several years, and welfare cuts have also made rents more of a burden.
Shelter's survey also found one in three people worry a breakdown in their relationship would leave them homeless. That is the equivalent of 4.9 million people. Government statistics show in the three months to September 2015 there were 2,410 new cases of homelessness in England where the reason was relationship breakdown in England, or 17% of the total.
"A break-up can happen for any number of reasons, but it's always an incredibly stressful and upsetting time, without the added fear of becoming homeless as well," said Nadeem Khan, Shelter's helpline adviser. "Speaking to Shelter's expert advisers early can make a world of difference when it comes to finding or keeping a home. Every day we help people who are coming to terms with a relationship breakdown, find somewhere new to live or figure out how they can afford their home alone.
"Sadly, people too often feel like they have to go through this ordeal on their own, but Shelter is here to help 365 days a year, and we're only ever a click or call away at www.shelter.org.uk/advice or on 0808 800 4444."