Leadsom calls on government to look to Big Issue solutions over housing

The Tory MP asked Housing Minister Christopher Pincher to consider RORA’s “excellent and very practical proposals” in an urgent question on the evictions moratorium in the House of Commons

Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom has urged ministers to consider The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance suggestions to protect renters.

The former Leader of the House of Commons asked Housing Minister Christopher Pincher to take a look at the “excellent and very practical steps” being suggested in the campaign as it continued to make an impression in Westminster.

Leadsom, who has been a long-time supporter of The Big Issue, made the call during an urgent debate by MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon on whether the eviction moratorium should be extended.

The six-month ban came to end on Sunday with court proceedings starting this week despite widespread warnings of a surge in homelessness and the March promise from Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick that “no renter who has lost income due to the coronavirus will be forced out of their home”.

South Northamptonshire MP Leadsom said: “The government took really excellent, strong steps to get rough sleepers off the streets during the first wave of the pandemic.

“I together with the noble Lord Bird, who is the founder of The Big Issue, wrote with some suggestions of how we can continue to ensure that rough sleeping becomes a thing of the past. But now, of course, with the end of the moratorium on evictions, the risk of people losing their work and then their home is increasing.

“So will my right honourable friend agree to look at some of the excellent and very practical proposals of the Ride Out Recession Alliance being proposed by the founders of The Big Issue and consider taking up some of those to prevent joblessness becoming homelessness yet again?”

Pincher, who was representing the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on behalf of Jenrick, responded to Leadsom’s question by offering to listen to The Big Issue’s ideas.

He said: “I think we’ve taken some of the steps that my right honourable friend has described and I am always prepared to look at ideas, particularly if they are supplied to me by my right honourable friend.”

The government minister had earlier opened the debate by pointing to the efforts made by Conservatives to halt a surge of evictions during the pandemic. As well as the ban, Pincher mentioned boosting Universal Credit payments and Local Housing Allowance as well as £180m in Discretionary Housing Payments and the winter evictions truce which will halt possessions between December 11 and January 11.

Pincher said that the government is constantly reviewing measures and is “prepared to take further measures”.

He added: “We must strike a balance so that landlords are able to access justice alongside measures to protect the vulnerable. This is vital to the long-term health of the private rented sector.

“Landlords must provide information on the court of the effect the Covid-19 pandemic on the tenant and their dependents. The court is likely to take a very dim view of any landlord who tried to circumvent this requirement or mislead court by not disclosing relevant information where known.”

Backing for beefed up measures to protect renters came from across the political spectrum with former Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron, who called for the urgent question, citing the research for Generation Rent that warns 55,000 households face eviction. He asked Pincher: “Things will get worse even more quickly. Unless he acts now, the Secretary of State will break his promise made in this place on the 18th of March that no renter who has lost income due to the coronavirus will be forced out of their home.

“The minister believe that the eviction moratorium was justified as the pandemic took hold in spring but as we battle a second wave in the harsh depths of winter, aren’t such measures justified still?”

Meanwhile, Labour Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debonnaire said it was “scandalous” that the eviction ban is ended as the UK moves into a second wave of Covid-19 cases. She also called for the government to speed up plans to abolish Section 21 “no fault” evictions.

The Big Issue is committed to protecting jobs and preventing homelessness through our Ride Out Recession Alliance. Now the campaign is starting to make ministers in Westminister sit up and take notice. We need your ideas to let them know how to tackle the challenges of Covid-19. Tell us your experiences, ideas and plans at rora@bigissue.com.