Confusion reigned. As I write this, it is still unclear whether the government’s ban on evictions in England would remain. The measure was put in place to offer some security for those who fell into arrears, or feared they would, due to Covid crippling their finances.
As part of our RORA drive we had been calling on the Westminster administration to extend that ban, which was due to lapse on August 23. Earlier this week, the Northern Irish executive joined devolved leaders in Scotland and Wales in introducing some measure of extension. We asked the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government if they were planning a last-minute Damascene conversion, whether the U-turn was on. We were assured that things would progress as planned and that it was time to allow evictions again. Then, rumours started to break that the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick was going to announce that the ban on evictions would stay.
The only way to prevent this is to fund home retention in the way Rishi Sunak funded job retention
This government do enjoy a U-turn, especially after insisting they wouldn’t. So they may have decided that it was the right thing to do by allowing an eviction extension. Or they may have not. Or they were waiting on an algorithm to tell them what to do.
Either way, this is just the start of very tough times. It’ll require much more than an eviction moratorium to prevent a homelessness landslide.
The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.
It’s worth recapping here what we’re trying to do with RORA. It’s the Ride Out Recession Alliance. We want to keep people in their homes and we want to keep them in their jobs, or help create new ones. If we can do this, we avoid a catastrophic cost to individuals, their future chances, the chances for their children and for the nation. To do this, we’re calling on as many people and organisations as possible to come up with new thinking and new ways of working. At The Big Issue we don’t have the solutions. But we want to find them.
The eviction moratorium argument focused minds. It helped, but it would not have provided an ending.
Now NI follows Scotland and Wales in new provisions to save those hit financially by coronavirus from eviction. Westminster must follow. Refusal doesn't stand any longer. https://t.co/48mTfOOzcE
— Paul McNamee (@PauldMcNamee) August 19, 2020
For that, boldness is required. All around us jobs are being cut. Job security is drifting in so many industries. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that 10 per cent of furloughed workers will become unemployed. Over nine million people were furloughed. If those in rented accommodation can’t meet rent bills, landlords, many of them small-time landlords, lose income. That puts them in a spiral as income problems grow. The debt hydra sprouts more heads.
The only realistic way to prevent this is to fund home retention in the way Rishi Sunak funded job retention. It has to be way beyond the norms of housing benefit. It requires a vast financial injection. How is that funded? What bonds and securities will need to be issued? How do we make sure it is a system that is easy to use but not abuse?
Whichever way the position on eviction sits, our next move has to be big enough to deal with this oncoming reality.
Let’s get ready.
Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue