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Dispatches from the front lines of the housing crisis

16 June 2015

Eight local Citizens Advice studies of housing market failures around England and Wales

Dispatches from the front lines of the housing crisisThree people every working minute are turning to Citizens Advice with a housing problem. Last year Citizens Advice helped 80,000 people with housing issues, and debt issues due to private rental arrears increased by 8%. 

We have spent the past year researching the housing crisis and how it affects people across England and Wales.

The research has been conducted by staff and volunteers from local Citizens Advice members who conducted in-depth interviews to gain a deep insight into the problems that our clients face in their local communities.

In our new report Dispatches from the front lines of the housing crisis [ 1 mb], we present a snapshot of local housing challenges from across England and Wales.

This report brings together research by eight local Citizens Advice members across England and Wales, all looking at the issues underlying housing problems in their area.

It finds that local housing markets, and associated challenges, are shaped by the histories, geographies and economies of places.

Our research identified a number of challenges including:

  • People being driven out of towns by poor housing standards and antisocial behaviour, but struggling with the higher costs of rural living, as exemplified in Pembrokeshire.

  • Post-war New Town planning decisions resulting in not enough small homes for young people or those wanting to downsize, as seen in Crawley.

  • Homeowners struggling to keep up with mortgage payments and meet the costs of looking after their home, as we learned in County Durham.

  • Young seasonal workers in Blackpool trapped renting in crumbling bed and breakfasts, whilst owners are unable to sell or renovate.

  • People in Conwy, Enfield and Dorchester doing battle with spiralling private rents, the up-front costs of moving, and sub-standard homes rented out by private landlords.

  • The impact of the growing student population in Exeter on the local infrastructure. 

People's housing challenges vary according to where they live. Across the country too many people are living in homes that don't meet their needs - from private renters in a damp property to homeowners who can't afford to move.  

Housing is one of the top issues people turn to Citizens Advice for help with, but within this we see a huge range of different problems. 

In the light of this compelling set of research projects, we are calling for a wider debate about the housing challenges facing the nation - a debate which looks beyond getting people onto the property ladder, and involving everyone from local councils to builders, MPs and landlords.

The new Government has the opportunity now to look at housing problems in the round and consider how to best address the range  of challenges faced by renters and homeowners alike.

This is why, throughout 2015, Citizens Advice is running an England-wide campaign aimed at improving the private rented sector: Settled and Safe, a renter's right

You can also find out more about our recent research on housing 

If you’d like to download an extract from the report they are available here:

Introduction [ 9 mb] - an overview of our work

Conclusions [ 240 kb] - a summary of our findings

Exeter [ 1.8 mb] - includes the private rented sector; student populations and planning decisions

Blackpool [ 0.96 mb] - includes the private rented sector, the declining tourist industry and planning decisions

Crawley [ 2.3 mb] - includes the long-term consequences of planning decisions and “New Towns”  

Durham [ 3.5 mb] - includes the challenges of home ownership

Enfield [ 2.9 mb], Pembrokeshire [ 1.5 mb], Conwy [ 1.2 mb] & Dorchester [ 250 kb]  all focus on the private rented sector