Cost-Of-Living Crisis A Perfect Storm For Increase In Rural Homelessness, Research Finds

New research being conducted by the University of Kent and the University of Southampton has found that the cost-of-living crisis and the critical shortage of affordable homes has increased rural homelessness.

Interim results from the research – which was jointly commissioned by rural advocates, including several housing associations and the National Housing Federation – found that 88% of participating housing and homelessness providers believe homelessness has increased in their area in the last year. Of these organisations, 80% felt at a disadvantage compared to those in urban areas who had more access to funding and support.

Emergency accommodation is particularly in demand, with many poorer residents in the countryside especially vulnerable to the combined forces of the cost-of-living crisis and the volatility and cost of private rentals.

The research also highlights the hidden nature of rural homelessness, with many not being recorded in official statistics while sofa surfing or rough sleepers taking refuge in remote agricultural buildings.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said:

“This interim report highlights a worrying trend, as homelessness continues to rise in our rural communities. We’ve known for a long time that there is a critical shortage of truly affordable homes in the countryside, and now, as the cost-of-living rises, even more people at the sharp end of the housing crisis are being priced out of private rent and left with no affordable housing options.

Housing associations and other organisations working in these communities do an incredible job providing homes and support to local people. However, we need to see more funding for social housing directed to these parts of the country, so we meet demand for genuinely affordable homes in rural communities.”

Martin Collett, Chief Executive of English Rural who are co-chairing the research project, said:

Martin Collett“The interim findings from the research already show that rural homelessness is a significant problem, rooted in stigma, with a lack of support and funding for affordable rural homes and services at a distinct disadvantage when compared to urban provision. Research to date demonstrates that solutions will be rooted in the need for fairer funding of rural communities, so that affordable homes and services are accessible to low-income and vulnerable households living in the countryside. We are very much looking forward to the full results next year to help us take strong and convincing evidence to policymakers to ensure that rural communities are not left out in the cold, as so often they are.”

The full report will be completed in early 2023 and will include recommendations on how vulnerable communities in the countryside can be helped and how rural homelessness could be better tackled and monitored.

The research has been commissioned by a rural homelessness task force to form a steering group of experts from English Rural Housing AssociationCPRE – The Countryside CharityThe National Housing FederationHomeless LinkHastoe Housing AssociationAction with Communities in Rural England (ACRE)The Rural Services NetworkCitizen HousingTrent and Dove Housing Association, and The Rural Housing Alliance.



David is 47 and has a replacement hip. Last night he slept on the floor of a public toilet. He lost his house during the pandemic. He was able to stay at his mother’s house for a while, but their relationship broke down. The homeless shelter in his area which he wanted to use had been closed. After experiencing blackouts due to illness, David’s glasses broke. He had no choice but to spend his monthly unemployment benefit on a new pair so he could see. David used to work as a binman, which he said ‘broke’ him. He was recently offered work in a town in a neighbouring county, but the cost of getting there was too expensive. He told us he has a hospital appointment for stomach problems soon, and he is worried he will have to jump the train barriers to get there. Recently David’s close friend, whom he lived with whilst sleeping rough and in temporary accommodation, passed away. He was unable to travel to the funeral due to transport costs. He has lost several friends to suicide. David’s physical and mental health are serious concerns for those trying to help him.


Mary is from a Traveller Gypsy background. She was evicted from her house and had to move into a caravan without a fridge-freezer, so keeping food was difficult. The caravan was very cold, but she could not afford gas in the winter. She began rough sleeping in a tent and her children had to move elsewhere. Whilst Mary was out in town one day, someone destroyed her tent, so Mary slept in a church for a few days. Mary acquired a new tent, and she is currently staying in a field where the local farmer has given her permission to stay and provides her with clean water. She struggles to get food and to cook; she often does not eat for 4-5 days. She receives food from a local food bank, but it is only open two days per week. She has been in trouble with the police for making a campfire to cook her food with. The closest town to Mary has a small shop, but no laundrette, so she walks into town to buy fairy liquid and washes her clothes in the river. She recently got herself a large dog, so that she can feel safe in her tent, and to help keep her warm. When we asked Mary what she would like to say to people who take decisions about homelessness and housing in rural areas, she said she would like for people to try and walk a day in her shoes and try to survive.

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