By Bruce Walker and Pat Niner
This research attempted to answer the question ‘What comparisons can be made between low income working households (LIWH) and Housing Benefit (HB) recipients in the private rented sector (PRS), and what do these comparisons show both in terms of the type, costs and access to PRS accommodation, and in terms of the type of households that are LIWH or HB recipients?’ To do this a secondary analysis of the General Household, Family Resources and English House Condition Surveys, was conducted and a survey of over 1,000 LIWH in a variety of locations in England, but with a focus on London, was also undertaken. This was followed up by 31 qualitative interviews with families with children aged under 16 years.
Overall the findings show that the great majority of LIWH live in accommodation of the ‘right’ size (in terms of the number of bedrooms) or larger than those that would be deemed appropriate under HB regulations. Of interest is the wide diversity of LIWH in the PRS. Even within the fairly narrowly defined group of ‘families with dependent children’ participating in the qualitative work there was diversity in terms of household size and composition, and ethnicity. Families were in the PRS for a number of different reasons and had different expectations, intentions and ambitions for the future. Their current living conditions and general circumstances also varied widely. Given this diversity, it is apparent that the PRS is performing a number of different and important roles for LIWH families.