As 55,000 people in England face homelessness due to the eviction ban being lifted at the start of the week, Shelter has published a report urging the UK government to take steps to protect renters during the pandemic.
The charity has described the situation as a “three-fold crisis” – public health, economics, and the longstanding housing crisis combined.
In the executive summary Jenny Pennington and Stephanie Kleynhans wrote: “Even in the best of times, many parents have had to choose between feeding their families and paying the rent.
“And over 300,000 people have reported that they’ve fallen behind on their rent during the pandemic, putting them at risk of eviction and homelessness. We need to act now.”
Four key recommendations are made in the report: lift the benefit cap; keep housing allowance at least in line with the lowest 30% of rents; create a relief fund to help renters pay off COVID arrears so they can stay in their homes; build more social housing.
Labour's shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: “Lifting the ban on evictions as we head into a second COVID spike is irresponsible and a betrayal of their promise that no renter will lose their home because of Coronavirus. It's scandalous the government lifts the evictions ban just as we're heading into a second spike of Coronavirus.”
The House of Lords voted to “regret” the end of the protections from evictions on Wednesday (23 September) and called on the government to give the courts discretion on evictions 268 votes to 237. Labour peer Lord Ponsonby who proposed the motion to regret, said: “There are potentially tens of thousands of evictions in the pipeline, and the government’s response, which we’ve heard today is too little, too late.”
In the House of Commons, to the dismay of housing campaigners, even though the government has promised to scrap Section 21 (so called 'no-fault' evictions) in the Renter’s Reform Bill, housing minister Chris Pincher said the government would not be doing so until “the appropriate time when there is a sensible and stable economic and social terrain”.
Generation Rent director Alicia Kennedy said: “When you’re a private renter living under the threat of Section 21, you have no idea where your home will be in a year’s time. The concept of ‘stable social terrain’ is completely alien to the one in five people in England who rent from a private landlord.”
Read our feature on the private rented sector and the fallout from the evictions ban in the October issue of EHN, out soon.