Housing

District Councils’ Network repeat warning that 500,000 face homelessness

The English local authority group say that the evictions ban could be the trigger for a dramatic rise in the number of people with nowhere to live

Stay Alert 1411

Back in the height of lockdown, the District Councils’ Network’s research that found almost 500,000 people would face homelessness off the back of the Covid-19 pandemic focused minds at The Big Issue.

The shocking figure graced our ‘Stay Alert’ satirical magazine cover back in May and was one of the major driving forces behind the formation of our Ride Out Recession Alliance. Big Issue founder Lord John Bird insisted that people on the margins must be protected from “falling into the treacle of homelessness”.

Today the DCN is repeating that stark warning, stating that 486,242 people could be at risk of spiralling into homelessness once the eviction ban in England lifts on August 23.

We need government to take steps to mitigate what could be a dramatic rise in homelessness

That headline number includes 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.

The DCN, who represent 187 district councils in England, came to the figure after analysing the number of households that are paying over half their income on private rented housing and are vulnerable to rising unemployment and reduced salaries. With the group, who are set to release their new report ‘District councils and the Private Rented Sector’, anticipating a rise in evictions once the ban ends in a matter of days, they warn that the risk of homelessness is great.

Councillors are calling for the government to continue to protect tenants from eviction even if the ban is lifted by lifting the benefit and boosting housing benefit so that it covers the lowest third of market rent.

Longer term, DCN are calling for more funding to be allocated to local authority homelessness support services in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review as well as efforts to tackle the housing crisis by investing in council housing.

The DCN report will also reveal that private landlords have expressed concern that tenants who are not in work will not pay any rent, with some indicating a preference for leaving a property empty rather risking renting out to a tenant who cannot pay.

Cllr Giles Archibald, DCN Better Lives spokesperson, said: “Districts are deeply worried about a potential spiralling in eviction proceedings once the Government’s ban ends this weekend.

“As the cliff edge nears little has been done to ensure the welfare system will support those vulnerable families at risk of homelessness, and we are now at the precipice without a plan.

“The coronavirus crisis will have exacerbated an already challenging situation where many families were struggling to keep a roof over their heads before the pandemic struck.

“COVID-19 will continue to have a huge impact on jobs and incomes, and while districts will do what they can to support those to remain in their homes, we need government to take steps to mitigate what could be a dramatic rise in homelessness, with many families approaching their local council for support.”

The Big Issue is rallying efforts to prevent the evictions ban through our Ride Out Recession Alliance.

Responding to the DCN research, Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue said: “At The Big Issue, we heeded the DCN’s first warning, months ago, of hundreds of thousands of people facing poverty and potential homelessness due to the effects of Covid.

“We launched the Ride out Recession Alliance, working with partners such as Shelter, Generation Rent to call on the UK Government to implement preventative measures.

We are urgently calling on the Government to extend the ban on evictions beyond the 23rd August and to create work programmes that stop people becoming impoverished.

“The time for hesitation has gone. The prevention of homelessness is the big issue of our time. We have to keep people in their own homes and in work in this pandemic caused recession. We need to stop people falling into the treacle of homelessness. Because once you slip into homelessness you can get stuck for years and the cost will be huge. It will be more expensive — financially, socially, for mental health, for the NHS — than keeping people in their homes and in work.”

So far, it is unclear whether the government will U-turn on plans to allow evictions resume from Monday. The Big Issue will continue to push for an extension.

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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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