A survey of 8,381 working adults in July, including 1,581 working families with children, found 37% would struggle to continue paying housing costs after one month of unemployment – equivalent to around three million adults if every single household in England were included in the survey.
Worryingly, 23% would struggle to pay rent or mortgage from the very moment they lost their job.
Almost half of those surveyed (48%) said “sky high” rent or mortgage payments were the main reason why they would have very little savings to fall back on in the event of unemployment, reflecting an earlier government study which found 16.5 million working-age adults in the UK have no savings whatsoever.
[contextly_sidebar id=”ZEZmgFAHjwgcYgKm0i7tqGaioVMgcWxR”]A single mum with two children, who hit a “rough patch” after changing jobs to become a complex needs carer, told researchers: “I’m working hard, but it still makes me feel like a failure.
“I recently changed jobs and hit a rough patch when I thought I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent.
“An employer had given me some work and didn’t tell me that my hours wouldn’t be guaranteed, I lost a chunk of my income all of a sudden, and very nearly lost my home. It was really scary.
“There’s never a cushion. You’d think if you were working you’d be able to save a little bit every month, but it’s just not a possibility when just paying for the basics is so expensive.”
Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said the findings were “a stark reminder that sky-high housing costs are leaving millions of working families stretched to breaking point”, left “barely scraping by from one pay cheque to the next”.
He added: “Any one of us could hit a bump along life’s road, and at Shelter we speak to parents every day who, after losing their job or seeing their hours cut, are terrified of losing the roof over their children’s heads too.
Mr Robb called on the government “to show working families they’re on their side, by protecting and improving our welfare safety net”.
“It’s vital that if life does takes a turn for the worse, there’s enough support available for families so that they don’t go hurtling towards homelessness.”
A government spokesperson told Sky News: “We are introducing the national living wage, increasing the personal tax allowance and giving the next generation choice and flexibility in their savings, including the Help to Save scheme for people on low incomes.
“We are continuing to spend around £90bn a year on working age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for the most vulnerable.
“And for those who do fall on difficult times, there are strong protections in place to guard against the threat of homelessness and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.”