Tenants in Northumberland are paying more to keep a roof over their heads than before the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Housing charity Shelter said thousands of people are ‘battling to stay in their homes and face the threat of homelessness’ as they attempt to keep up with rents rocketing to record levels.

Office for National Statistics figures show the median rent per property paid by tenants across 1,900 homes in Northumberland in the year to March was £525, up 5 percent from £500 the year before.

In the year to March 2020, before the pandemic, tenants paid an average of £480.

Further ONS figures show rents in England increased by 4.9 percent in the 12 months to May – up from 4.7 percent in the 12 months to April, and the highest rise since records began in January 2006.

Shelter said private renters are ‘facing a crisis like never before’ and blamed the Government for failing to build enough affordable social housing.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity, said: "Given private renters already pay the highest housing costs of anyone, and have for a long time, they’re feeling the pain of the current cost of living crisis more than most."

Ms Neate said that the Government's immediate focus should be on ending the four-year freeze on housing benefit and ‘preventing a tsunami of homelessness.’

She added: "We desperately need more genuinely affordable social homes with stable rents that are tied to local incomes and not an unstable private market.”

Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director at Generation Rent, said: "The Government’s failure to act is unaffordable. We need more social house building to take people out of the expensive private sector.”

A UK Government spokesperson said the Renters Reform Bill will ‘deliver a fairer deal for renters in England.’

They said: "The bill will empower tenants to challenge unjustified rent increases and protect them as we keep our commitment to ban ‘no fault’ evictions."

The spokesperson added housebuilding is a priority for the Government, committing to building 300,000 homes every year to ‘create a more sustainable and affordable housing market.’