A UK PARLIAMENTARY SELECT COMMITTEE has found that repeated last minute extensions to the ban on evictions in England must be replaced by a coherent exit plan to help the private rented sector emerge from lockdown,
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee says that the UK Government will need to establish a system of financial support for renters who have amassed significant rent arrears during the Covid-19 pandemic, and should bring forwards its preferred model for doing so as soon as practicable.
Helping tenants pay their rent arrears will be the simplest and most straightforward way to avoid evictions and help landlords receive income. The potential cost of between £200 and £300 million would prevent significant expenditure on homelessness assistance.
The Committee’s report praises the efforts of all involved in ensuring the Everyone In strategy got people off the streets and into accommodation during the early months of the pandemic. However, after initial successes it had become too easy for people to fall through the gaps. Individuals with no recourse to public funds due to their immigration status were not always being given the support they needed, and the Government did not have a good enough understanding of the numbers affected due to poor data collection.
The Committee called on the government to clarify the legal powers of local authorities to support all rough sleepers and homeless individuals during public health crises, and provide the necessary financial support to ensure no-one falls through the gaps. It additionally called for the government to establish a taskforce to specifically address the impact of no recourse to public funds on homelessness, or risk failing to meet its manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping.
Responding to the report, Richard Lane, Director of External Affairs at the debt charity StepChange, said: “We welcome the committee’s findings which highlight that targeted financial support is badly needed to help private renters exit safely from this pandemic. Without these measures, renters face a crisis of housing insecurity, homelessness and eviction.
“Around half a million private renters have fallen into arrears since March 2020 and many are now worried about being evicted from their home. With the expiry of the rental eviction suspension in just two months, now is the time to tackle the Covid rent debt crisis with decisive solutions.
“It’s vital ministers act on the Committee’s call for an emergency financial support package for tenants and landlords. The Committee’s favoured solution of discretionary payments can be implemented quickly, and we also see potential for a wider package of grants and no-interest loans to give renters a sustainable way to recover and to help them keep their homes.”
* Read the Committee’s report here.
* Read StepChange’s Covid Debt Rescue Report here.
* Source: StepChange