Housing

More than 50 organisations call on government to prevent impending 'mass homelessness crisis'

An open letter to the prime minister, led by Lord Bird, has warned of a mass homelessness crisis - the likes of which have never been seen before. It comes as the UK faces the end of furlough, cuts in universal credit and rising food and fuel prices.

More than 50 organisations have warned of a “mass homelessness crisis like never before” if Boris Johnson does not make a commitment to keep people in their homes. 

In an open letter to the prime minister led by founder Lord John Bird, the signatories asked Johnson to end no fault evictions, pay off the £360 million outstanding rent arrears and support people into sustainable jobs. 

The letter has so far been signed by 55 organisations across the UK including homelessness charities Shelter and Crisis, the National Education Union as well as the London Borough of Southwark. 

The letter coincides with World Homeless Day, on October 10, and comes as The Big Issue continues its Stop Mass Homelessness campaign.  

As of summer 2021 there were an estimated 431,820 in the private rented sector who are behind on their rent and 558,000 universal credit claimants. 

Lord Bird predicted that a “perfect storm awaits,” as the UK faces the removal of support measures implemented during the pandemic including furlough and the universal credit increase. 

This is combined with  rising energy bills, which are estimated to tip a further 488,000 households into fuel poverty, and the accompanying increase in food prices. Food banks are also already struggling against supply issues and an increase in demand. 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan recently told The Big Issue that the government needs to take note of some of the consequences of their policies as he said that cuts to universal credit and lack of affordable housing will worsen the homelessness crisis in the UK. 

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Lord Bird reminded the prime minister of his government’s promise that “no renter who has lost income due to Coronavirus will be forced out of their home,” and directly asked him to keep that promise at a time when hundreds of thousands are facing that exact situation.

A government spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve kept renters in their homes through banning bailiff evictions, extending notice periods and providing unprecedented financial support.

“Universal credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work. We’ve always been clear that the uplift to universal credit was temporary and designed to help people through the toughest stages of the pandemic.

“Our reforms to the rental sector will deliver a fairer system for all.”

Read the whole letter in full, including the signatory organisations, below: 

Dear Prime Minister,  

For three decades, The Big Issue has supported people who have found themselves without a place to call home. Now, after a global pandemic has pushed so many into poverty, our priority is to put a stop to people becoming homeless in the first place. That’s why we are campaigning to Stop Mass Homelessness.   

This is so timely as a huge number of people who have never before been at risk of losing their home will suddenly be unable to afford the roof over their head through no fault of their own. This is the stark reality we face unless the Government act now to keep people in their homes.   

A shocking number of households were in rent arrears in summer 2021 – with estimates ranging from 431,820 in the Private Rented Sector, to 558,000 for Universal Credit claimants. Evictions and repossessions are also reaching the courts at an increasingly alarming pace. One household every 63 minutes was evicted in August and a third of cases explicitly mentioned Covid-19 related poverty.  

That was the picture before. A perfect storm awaits now that measures in place to support people through the pandemic have come to an end.   

The furlough scheme has been scrapped. That puts the 1.6 million people who were still on furlough last month at risk of losing their jobs – and their homes. Energy bills for millions have risen by up to £139 a year – pushing 488,000 additional households into fuel poverty. At the same time, we see Universal Credit cut by £20 – forcing families to choose between feeding their children or paying the rent.  

As people are faced with additional costs and their income or financial support is cut – how can they be expected to support themselves? Through no fault of their own, hundreds of thousands of people risk losing their homes.  

The Government was clear in its commitment that “no renter who has lost income due to Coronavirus will be forced out of their home”.  

But this is exactly the situation that hundreds of thousands are facing. We need action to support tenants and landlords to stop a mass homelessness crisis like never before.  

We saw the good progress that can be made on homelessness through the Everyone In scheme. Now, we need to build on this progress and see more bold and sensible policies like this again from the Government, to prevent families and individuals being forced into destitution and homelessness – which is more costly for the Government and damaging for society.  

Can you make good on your Government’s promise?  

We need you to commit to keep people in their homes – through ending no fault evictions, paying off the £360 million rent arrears and supporting people into sustainable jobs and training.  

Kind regards, 

Lord John Bird  

Founder of The Big Issue  

Signatories:

Action on Empty Homes 

ASLEF 

Bounce Back 

Bright Centres 

Caring in Bristol 

City & Guilds 

Community Trade Union 

Crisis 

Ctrl-Shift 

Democracy Box 

Fairer Share 

FCB Inferno 

Fuel Poverty Action 

Generation Rent 

Glass Door

Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit 

Highway House 

Housing Association Charitable Trust 

Housing Justice 

Intergenerational Foundation 

Joint council for the welfare of immigrants 

Labour Campaign for Human Rights  

London Borough of Southwark 

Manage your language 

Mumsnet 

National Education Union 

Nationwide 

New Economics Foundation 

New Horizon Youth Centre 

Omidaze 

Positive Money 

Psychologists for Social Change 

Quaker Social Action 

Reuse Network 

safeagent 

Save the Children 

Shelter 

Social Enterprise Mark CIC 

Social Enterprise UK 

Social Housing Action Campaign 

Springboard 

The 99% organisation 

The Body Shop 

The Faculty of Public Health 

Think Productive 

Thompsons Solicitors 

Transform Justice 

Trust for London 

Turn2Us 

UK Women’s Budget Group 

Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers 

Unlock 

Wholegrain Digital 

Working Chance 

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For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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