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Housing

Shelter eye £12.2bn social home rescue package to build out of Covid crisis

Charity warns that current government funding means there is only one social home for every 96 households on waiting lists

Ride Out Recession Alliance (RORA) member Shelter is urging the government to spend £12.2 billion on building 50,000 social homes over the next two years as Covid-19 continues to put “unprecedented pressure” on those in poor housing.

The housing charity has been a leading member of The Big Issue’s RORA campaign since its inception and is now calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help reach the goal of preventing homelessness by launching a targeted social housing rescue package.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Before a thundercloud of homelessness breaks over us, the Chancellor needs to be as swift and bold on housing as we’ve seen him be on jobs.

“By turbocharging investment in social housing today, we can build ourselves out of this pandemic and lay the foundations of a better future.”

The charity’s new “Build Your Way Out” report warns that the government’s existing funding for delivering new social homes is “woefully inadequate”, providing only enough cash for one social home for every 96 households on waiting lists in England.

But a government spokesperson has hit back at the charity, stating that they “do not recognise the figures”.

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Shelter’s urgent demands reveal the increasingly precarious spot that many renters find themselves in during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a YouGov survey carried out on their behalf, only half of private renters in England say they home has made them feel safe during the pandemic.

And 2.1 million people, making of a quarter of private renting adults, said their housing situation made lockdown harder to cope with. Private tenants were twice as likely to have struggled during the full national lockdown earlier this year when compared to those living in secure social homes.

I was in shock. I had to look for a new home while I was highly vulnerable and shielding

Meanwhile, the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is being felt by 1.6 million adult private renters who admitted to struggling to pay rent or falling behind on payments. And 3.6 million – 43 per cent of renters – say they pay too much for the quality of home they have.

The cost is keeping people like Michelle, who was interviewed for the report, trapped in insecure accommodation. The 58-year-old store manager, who lives in Hereford with her son, was shielding throughout the pandemic after being diagnosed with a life-limiting medical condition in February.

“I feel so tired of the renting game,” she said. “When you’re in your late 50s like me, even on a good wage there’s no way you can get a mortgage. So, you’re left with private renting.”

In July, after just four months in her home, she was served with a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice by her landlord because he wanted to sell the property.

“I was in shock,” she continued. “I had to look for a new home while I was highly vulnerable and shielding.

“If I could live in a social home, it would give me such peace of mind that I won’t have to move every six months. It would mean I could unpack, put things up on the wall, have a cat. Just little things in life that would make such a big difference. All I can do now is put my pictures on the hooks the landlord has left. It sounds really basic, but it is part of wanting to make a home.”

Shelter’s proposed £12.2 billion package would build 50,000 social homes over the next two years out of a total of 145,000 new affordable homes. That would be almost four times the number of social homes currently delivered each year, the charity claims.

Although the eviction ban that has protected many renters throughout lockdown has now come to an end, the government has replaced it with a six-month eviction notice period and a “winter truce” that means there will be no evictions between December 11 2020 and January 11 2021, as well as preventing evictions in local lockdown areas.

A government spokesperson said: “We do not recognise these figures. We’ve taken unprecedented action to protect renters including a six-month ban on evictions, as well as preventing people getting into financial hardship by helping businesses to pay salaries and boosting the welfare safety net by over £9 billion.

“Renters will continue to be protected through winter, including 6-month notice periods and instructing bailiffs not to enforce evictions in areas of local lockdown – anyone now served notice will not have to leave their home except in the most serious cases, such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse.

“Anyone worried about losing their home and not having anywhere else to go should speak to their local council, which has a duty in law to help prevent them becoming homeless.”

Do you agree with Shelter’s plans? Has your life been affected by the pandemic? Do you have an idea about how people’s jobs and livelihoods could be secured? We want to share your story and bring together different thinking to form some solutions. Get in touch – email rora@bigissue.com

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