Housing

Government must 'redesign housing system' as eviction ban lifts, say experts

The eviction ban ends this September 20 after ministers announced a brief extension last month. Campaigners, councils and analysts are united in their calls for the Government to protect people from Covid-19 homelessness

With the temporary eviction freeze set to end in England and Wales on September 20, campaigners are urging the Government to extend it to prevent a wave of homelessness.

And councils are calling on ministers to provide more cash to support renters, with fears that lifting the ban before the Job Retention Scheme ends could force thousands into debt and out of their homes.

Ride Out Recession Alliance member organisation Shelter said 322,000 people have fallen into arrears since lockdown as a result of job losses, income cuts and issues in the social security system.

And the District Councils’ Network warned that as many as 500,000 people could be at risk of homelessness , including 108,000 lone parents at the greatest risk of losing their homes and a further 100,000 people aged between 16-24 years old who have seen their incomes slashed and jobs hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Newham Council said it fears up to 20 per cent of tenants in the area could already be in arrears.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said lifting the ban now “suggests that the Covid-19 crisis is over but we know that is far from the case,” adding: “We are currently fighting to halt a slide back into a second wave of infecion.

“At a time when people are being forced to miss work either due to new infection, or because they have to self-isolate within a household, or because, to the shame of this Government, they can’t get a test, it is plain wrong to threaten people with losing their home.

“In Scotland the ban has been extended to March 2021, yet households in England and Wales are still left facing dire situations. The ban should not be lifted until the Government has a credible plan to ensure no one is at risk of losing their home because of coronavirus.”

Last month, before the ban was extended for four weeks beyond August 23, the British Medical Association (BMA) warned that lifting the eviction ban could drive a surge in Covid-19 infections.

As well as calling for an extension, the BMA said the Government should introduce legislation that places a 12-month duty on local authorities to provide safe accommodation for everyone sleeping rough or homeless and unable to self-isolate, and for those who are at risk of becoming so.

Meanwhile the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is urging ministers to use the upcoming Spending Review to deliver more genuinely affordable homes for social rent.

Darren Baxter, policy and partnerships manager at JRF said: “The temporary pause on evictions has held many households steady at a time of profound economic uncertainty. After this protection is withdrawn, there is a real risk of an increase in evictions as many renters will find their incomes are well below what is needed to meet their housing costs.

“As the country continues to grapple with an unemployment crisis that has yet to peak, this means an increased risk of private renters being pushed into debt and homelessness.

“We welcome other protections brought in for renters as a necessary first step, but we now need to see much bolder action. At the upcoming Budget and Spending Review, the Government has an opportunity to redesign our housing system so that it lifts people out of poverty rather than drags them further down.

“Investment at scale in social housing would not only significantly increase the supply of homes for families on low incomes, it would also provide an effective boost to our economic recovery and produce significant savings on social security.”

Earlier this week Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wrote to the housing secretary asking for the power to impose a rent freeze on the English capital for two years in a bid to protect those put at risk when evictions begin again.

The Big Issue is committed to helping protect jobs and keep people in their homes, working alongside Ride Out Recession Alliance partners Shelter, Nationwide Foundation, Unilever and many more. We need your ideas too. Tell us your experiences, ideas and plans at rora@bigissue.com.

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