To launch the campaign, BIG drove a removals van around Westminster featuring the prime minister’s face and the words: ‘Rishi’s Removals – Driving families out of their homes.’
The stunt, which comes as Sunak returns to Westminster for his first Prime Minister’s Questions since the summer recess, is intended to draw the PM’s attention to the desperate situation the UK’s private renters find themselves in.
Tenants are facing a barrage of cost increases when it comes to food, fuel and rent, and those who are receiving universal credit and housing benefit are being driven into debt and homelessness just to afford the basics.
“Renters are facing the biggest housing crisis in a generation, and if the government don’t take urgent action urgently, it’ll become a homelessness crisis,” said Lord Bird, founder of the Big Issue Group.
“Skyrocketing rents are forcing millions of those on the lowest incomes to forgo essentials like food and heating to keep a roof over their head. Those in the private rented sector face the added threat of unregulated no-fault evictions driving families out of their homes every day.
“We’ve been waiting for the Renters Reform Bill to end no-fault evictions and fulfil the government’s manifesto commitment for four years now. It’s time to end the delays. Now that parliament has returned, we must get this bill on the statute books and make sure the provisions in it for ending damaging no-fault evictions are watertight.
“Anything less will be a betrayal of this country’s millions of renters.”
Big Issue Group’s End Housing Insecurity Now campaign is calling on the prime minister to implement three policies to ensure the low-income renters in the UK can stay in their homes and fulfil their potential:
1. Unfreeze local housing allowance (LHA) rates (currently fixed at 2018-19 rental prices). While rents have been increasing, housing benefit payments have not. Those on the lowest incomes have been left to make up the shortfall by cutting back on essentials, or falling into debt. A rise will make sure housing benefit payments keep up with local rent costs and are calculated to cover the cheapest 30% of private rents.
2. Reform universal credit – to ensure everyone can afford the essentials BIG is backing the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s call for an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ to set a basic standard of living. The amount needed should increase from £86 to at least £120 a week for a single adult and from £135 to £200 for a couple.
3. Bring forward the Renters Reform Bill and end no-fault evictions for good, to finally put renters in the private sector on a sure footing. Still now, private landlords in England can evict their tenants without a reason. These no-fault evictions areone of the leading drivers of homelessness. The Renters Reform Bill promises to be the biggest shake-up of the private rented sector in a generation.
The campaign will also highlight the work BIG is doing to give thousands of people at the sharp end of poverty access to secure housing in the UK, so that they can fulfil their potential.
That includes investments made via Big Issue Invest into organisations giving thousands of people in the UK access to secure housing. As well as BIG’s work as a ‘social advisor’ to ensure social impact is at the heart of investment decisions, with a focus on affordable housing. And the work of BIG’s frontline service team, who support Big Issue vendors and Big Issue Recruit candidates to access the basics, such as secure housing.
“Sadly, we at the Big Issue, are witnessing the strain of making ends meet amongst our vendors,” added Lord Bird.
“In 2022, we supported 144 vendors to find, access and maintain a secure home and supported 170 vendors to maximise income, take action on debts, and access financial services. We are investing in organisations to tackle the housing crisis at a local level. We have managed to do a lot but we need the government to take action too.”
Urgent action is needed to prevent even more people being pushed into homelessness. A secure home is the first step in addressing the cruel cycle of poverty to ensure people can fulfil their potential. Join us to keep people in their homes.