Rents were costing middle-income tenants in Northamptonshire up to a quarter of their pre-tax wages even before the cost of living escalated, new figures suggest.
Ministers recently unveiled the renters' reform bill, which aims to ban no-fault evictions, provide greater legal power for renters to challenge landlords on unfit homes and protect them against unjust price rises.
Homeless charity Shelter says the bill is a “gamechanger” for England’s 11 million private renters — but also warned tenants are living on a knife-edge as fuel and food bills soar.
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In West Northamptonshire, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom property stood at £625 in the 12 months to March, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Separate ONS data shows the median wage of full-time employees in the area in 2021 was £30,514 per year.
It means the average middle-income worker living alone in West Northamptonshire was spending around 25 percent of their income on rent last year.
Across Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom property was £519 in the year to March compared to a median wage of £29,597 per year.
That means the average middle-income worker in North Northamptonshire spent around 21 percent of their income on rent.
The median is a measure used to exclude extreme values which could skew the average.
Living costs soared in April, adding to the financial strain on renters across the country.
Median rent across all property types in West Northamptonshire rose from £745 per month in the 12 months to March 2021 to £767 last year. In North Northamptonshire the figure rose from £676 per month to £705.
Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate, said millions of tenants are "living on a knife-edge with no wriggle room to help then navigate rising costs" as private rents swallow an increasingly large portion of people's income.
Ms Neate also urged the government to end the freeze on housing benefit immediately, providing a safety net for the almost half of renters who have no savings.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the most vulnerable will receive at least £1,200 of direct payments to limit the rising cost of living, and highlighted the council tax rebate and £400 energy repayment as measures introduced to help.
Different ONS figures show median rents rose by 2.8 percent in the 12 months to May, the highest annual increase since records began in 2016.
In the East Midlands, rents have increased by 4.1 percent – up from 2.4 percent the year before.
Action group Generation Rent said that some middle-income earners being unable to afford their own one-bed flat is a "shameful mark of failure by successive governments to take housing seriously."
Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director, said: "Renters are bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis, unable to force landlords to properly insulate homes and facing huge rent increases in the aftermath of the pandemic.
"In the short term, we need a freeze on rents but long term we need much greater efforts to build homes in places people want to live."