Barnet’s housing crisis

75% increase in housing issue enquiries since 2020


In a year where half the world goes to the polls, and with local elections looming in Barnet in May, we’ve decided to take a step back and reflect on the key issues people are facing in our community, and what we see here at Citizens Advice Barnet.

This month we are focusing on the topic of housing and how it is affecting the people who live here.


London’s housing crisis

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, the housing crisis in London is hard to miss. The scarcity of affordable housing, exorbitant rents, inadequate social housing, and substandard conditions in private rentals are among the many challenges confronting Londoners.

In Barnet, like most London boroughs, the staggering rise in housing issues over the past four years has been well documented. The severity of the situation is something we’ve seen first hand, both anecdotally and in the statistics we record internally.


About the data

We collect data about the people who come to Citizens Advice Barnet for our help, recording why they come to us and their backgrounds. Although we have statistics going back many years, we have chosen to review the period January 2020 to December 2023. As we know, pre Covid the world was a very different place, and it affected society in so many ways – including the issue of housing – which is why we’ve decided to focus on the most recent four years.


Barnet’s housing crisis

Citizens Advice Barnet witnessed a 75% surge in housing issue enquiries over the last four years, with almost 6,000 people asking for help between 2020 and the end of 2023 about housing issues alone. This represented 11% of all enquiries we received in the period.

The data reveals some troubling trends across housing; among the most alarming statistics is the huge rise in homelessness and threatened homelessness.


Homelessness and the threat of homelessness

Threatened homelessness is when a person is likely to become homeless within 56 days or they have been given a valid section 21 notice in respect of their only accommodation. Threatened homelessness soared by 280% over the four-year period.

Enquiries from people who had been made actually homeless more than doubled, with the steepest rise happening between 2021 and 2022.

The rise in homelessness issue enquiries we’ve seen in the period in Barnet mirrors a national trend; the reasons behind the rise are down to changes in government policy post pandemic. During Covid the government put in place policies such as housing rough sleepers and an eviction ban protecting private renters which brought homelessness numbers down. Unfortunately as these policies were abandoned post pandemic, rates have increased, returning to the figures they once were.



Private sector rented property issues

Enquiries relating to privately rented properties increased by nearly 60% in the borough between 2020 to 2023. In real terms, this issue has consistently represented the largest actual number of housing-related enquiries, highlighting the challenges faced by renters in Barnet.


From exorbitant rents to poor living conditions, tenants in the private sector continue to bear the brunt of Barnet’s housing crisis. Mould in private rented accommodation has been one such issue which has been played out in the media, and the high up-front costs required for deposits are simply unaffordable.

There are also significant external factors which have influenced the numbers and issues within housing that we’ve been seeing here in Barnet. The increase in living costs is just one of these factors.


Cost of Living Crisis

Everyone has been facing increased living costs since around 2021 but it’s adding significant pressures to private renters, especially those on lower incomes as a large proportion of their income is spent on rent – a problem which is emblematic of London. Average rents in London have increased by £570 in the period. Rental inflation in Barnet in 2020 was an average of 1.2% across the year, whereas in 2023 it averaged at 8.3%.

When all other costs are rising, too, such as transport, food, and utilities, more people seek our help which is reflected in the steep incline of private rent issue enquiries between 2021 and 2022. Even if people are in receipt of a housing allowance to pay their rent, it’s usually not enough to cover the full value. This has a knock-on effect on affording everyday living and we regularly find when we help people with one issue such as housing, we find they often need help with another – such as debt and food banks. This is ever so much more pronounced in the cost of living crisis.


And finally…

While we can see clear trends in our statistics, and they mirror what is going on nationally, it has to be said that these only represent the number of enquiries we receive – not the actual numbers of these issues. Therefore this suggests that these numbers only represent a proportion of the actual scale of the housing issue in Barnet.

These numbers are also a reflection of our capacity as a service and how we organise our projects. Citizens Advice Barnet is a local charity and we provide free advice and support to our community where we have resources and capacity.

Therefore we are always looking for ways to increase our service capacity to meet the needs of our community. If you are interested in supporting us then you can donate to us directly using the link below. Thank you.