No Going Back To The Streets In Wales

Wales’ housing minister says she is “absolutely determined” homeless people will not have to go back on to the streets after the coronavirus pandemic.

Councils are being asked to find permanent homes for hundreds of rough sleepers who moved into emergency accommodation during lockdown. Rooms in hotels, student accommodation and hostels were bought up at the start of the pandemic to provide 800 places. But Julie James said that was not “OK for the longer term”. Another £20m will now go towards building homes and converting empty properties.

She said it would ensure “that everybody housed stays housed”. “We are absolutely determined that no one will have to go back on to the streets,” Ms James added. She said she was worried about a small number of people who were deemed to have “no recourse to public funds” because of their unsettled immigration applications. They include asylum seekers who have been given temporary housing under the Welsh Government’s health powers to protect them from Covid-19.

Ms James said there were “tens” of them in Wales and she urged the UK government to change its rules so they can continue to get help. The Home Office said that was “inaccurate.” A spokesman said: “Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation, and we continue to provide accommodation and support to those whose claims have been rejected and are unable to return home. We will review this situation by the end of June.”

In Cardiff, the council has taken over two hotels to temporarily house homeless people. Officers say only a handful of people have remained out on the streets during the pandemic. Sara John, 35, is staying at a YHA hostel with her partner after previously staying at other hostels and spending time on the streets. She said coronavirus was “scary because you don’t know if you’re going to have the virus or not”. “There are things you hear but, obviously, I’ve been out every day and I’m still here,” she said. The YHA hostel, which has 89 beds, makes her feel more secure “because you can lock away and you’ve got staff here if you need them”.

Manager Gareth Edwards said some people had moved on to more permanent accommodation. “We are dealing with 200 and something people at the moment so there’s probably going to be a bottleneck of people trying to get into private rented accommodation or supported accommodation in some way,” he said. “I think that’s going to be the challenge for us now is to try and identify what people’s needs are and where is going to be the best place to place them.”

Shelter Cymru director John Puzey said: “We now have a unique opportunity before us to ensure that homeless people currently in temporary accommodation are supported into homes that they can begin to restart their lives from.” Plaid Cymru’s housing spokeswoman, Delyth Jewell MS, said eradicating homelessness had always been “a question of political will”. She said: “The fact that the Welsh Government has now made a commitment to eradicate homelessness for good is extremely welcome, although many lives could have been saved had they acted sooner.”

Tory MS David Melding said councils should follow a Newport scheme where private landlords were guaranteed six months’ rent if they took in homeless tenants. “It does seem that the Newport scheme has worked very well, and may be a very constructive way forward that uses the resources of the private sector, which are so extensive in providing rental accommodation,” he said. Funding announced by Ms James would help people into stable housing “so they don’t fall back and then end up in the streets again”, Mr Melding said.

Rough Sleepers Should Stay With Family And Friends

A Tory MP and minister for rough sleeping has been mocked for suggesting that local councils should try and get homeless people to move in with family and friends during the coronavirus crisis, reports the Liverpool Echo.

The minister, Luke Hall, has written to all councils in England as pressure to find alternative accommodation for rough sleepers during the crisis. In the letter, seen by the Liverpool Echo, Mr Hall urged local authorities to find alternative accommodation for the thousands of rough sleepers who were given emergency accommodation under the ‘Everyone In’ scheme.

Advising councils on what they could do next, the minister wrote: “In terms of move-on accommodation, all options need to be considered. We ask that you seek to encourage people, where appropriate and possible, to return to friends and family.”

The comments have drawn widespread criticism for appearing to show a lack of knowledge about the personal circumstances of rough sleepers. Liverpool’s Cabinet Member for Health, Cllr Paul Brant said: “Rough sleepers end up on streets for multiple different reasons – as victims of domestic abuse; mental breakdowns; eviction from debt. None are on the streets because they had accommodation options from friends/family available and forgot to ask.”

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire also slammed the letter. She said: “This half-baked suggestion shows that this Government is already rowing back from that promise. These comments smack of incompetence. Luke Hall has shown a woeful lack of understanding about the complex reasons why so many people sleep rough in this country. If rough sleepers were able to return to their friends and family, they would not be sleeping rough.”

“They need somewhere safe to live and the support to make a go of it. The Government should be working with councils to fulfil its commitment to end rough sleeping, not washing its hands of the responsibility to house the homeless.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman insisted people would return to friends or family “only where appropriate and possible”. He added: “Our new rough sleeping taskforce has one overriding objective: to ensure as many people as possible who have been brought in off the streets in this pandemic do not return to sleeping rough.

Will It Be Back To The Streets For Rough Sleepers?

Thousands of homeless people who have been housed during the coronavirus pandemic could return to the streets by the end of June, a charity has warned.

Since the lockdown began, more than 14,500 people who were on the streets or at risk of sleeping rough have been given emergency accommodation. But Crisis has warned contracts between local councils and hotels are due to end as government funding runs out, reports the BBC.

The government said councils must continue to provide accommodation.But councils have asked the government to be clear on what extra practical support they will get. Local authorities in England began moving rough sleepers into emergency accommodation such as hotels in March after the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

The councils were given £3.2m from the government as part of an emergency scheme called “Everyone In”, which was aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. But earlier this month, it emerged government funding for that scheme was to end. The government said it had given councils an extra £3.2bn in funding to help them deal with the pandemic, although that money is not specifically for the emergency rough sleeping scheme.

Crisis called the action to house rough sleepers over the past weeks “extraordinary”, adding: “This has demonstrated that when the political will is there it is possible to end homelessness.” But the charity said the government should take further action to provide everyone with permanent housing, warning that if not people will be forced to return to the streets.

Matt Downie, director of policy at the charity, said most contracts between local authorities and hotels are set to end at the end of June and the charity had received “no indications at all” from the government that more money is coming to extend the scheme. Mr Downie said: “We will take one of two paths here: one is that 15,000 people are permanently helped out of homelessness through the amazing Everyone In scheme, or we will see a massive increase in rough sleeping in this country just at the point when we thought it would be possible to avoid that.”

He added: “It’s within the government’s control to make decisions so that doesn’t happen, for example to either continue hotel schemes or to give alternative arrangements to local authorities and individuals.”

Crisis has estimated it would cost £282m to provide the people in emergency accommodation with permanent housing and support for the next 12 months. The charity also carried out a survey of 150 charities and organisations in England, Scotland and Wales and found more than half reported a rise in people seeking help during the lockdown. Some people have lost their homes because their jobs have gone, while for others there have been relationship problems or an end to sofa surfing arrangements.

Crisis wants the government to pass an emergency homelessness bill forcing councils in England to provide emergency accommodation for a year to anyone who becomes homeless during the pandemic. The government said any suggestion it was rowing back on its commitment to support rough sleepers was untrue.

“Our new rough sleeping taskforce will ensure as many people as possible who have been brought in off the streets in this pandemic do not return,” a spokesman said. “We have accelerated plans for new services – backed by £433m – which will ensure 6,000 new housing units will be put into the system, with 3,300 available in the next 12 months.”

The body representing local councils in England and Wales, the Local Government Association, said councils had faced “significant challenges” housing large numbers of homeless people since the coronavirus outbreak. Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said the overwhelming majority – nearly 15,000 – of rough sleepers and homeless people have been found accommodation.

But he added: “Following the initial surge in demand for accommodation, councils are also now experiencing an urgent need for more accommodation as people, including young people, continue to face homelessness and rough sleeping. While the recently announced funding for councils to support rough sleepers is positive, we still need clarity from government on what additional practical support will be available to councils to help them move people out of hotels and temporary accommodation and into housing.”

The government said any suggestion it is rowing back on its commitment to support rough sleepers is untrue, adding: “We are clear that councils must continue to provide safe accommodation. Our new rough sleeping taskforce will ensure as many people as possible who have been brought in off the streets in this pandemic do not return. We have accelerated plans for new services – backed by £433m – which will ensure 6,000 new housing units will be put into the system, with 3,300 available in the next 12 months.”

Ban On Evictions Extended For Two Months

The government has extended its ban on evictions in England and Wales by a further two months, prolonging the breathing space for thousands of tenants who have struggled to pay the rent during lockdown.

“Eviction hearings will not be heard in courts until the end of August and no one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus,” the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, tweeted on Friday evening reports The Guardian. Campaigners had warned that hundreds of thousands of tenants in the private and social sectors faced court action from the end of this month because they had gone into rent arrears after losing work or shielding during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government’s original eviction moratorium, announced in March, was due to end on 25 June, at which point landlords would have been able to continue or institute legal proceedings to remove tenants. The government said it was working with the judiciary to draw up new legal guidance which would ensure the courts were “better able to address the need for appropriate protection of all parties, including those shielding from coronavirus”.

The extension – which will take the moratorium to five months in total – means eviction proceedings will in effect not be able to start up before 1 September. The government said it wanted court to be a last resort; it wanted landlords to “exhaust all possible options”, such as agreeing flexible rent payment plans with tenants, to minimise the likelihood of eviction proceedings.

The housing charity Shelter said the extension merely delayed the eviction problem until the end of August, and that the government should act quickly to change the law to prevent a “tidal wave of homelessness after the end of August”. Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “The government has reset the clock on the evictions ban, buying the families who were only weeks away from losing their homes, a vital stay of execution. But it’s only a stop-gap. The ban hasn’t stopped people who’ve lost their jobs during this pandemic from racking up rent arrears. Even if they have a plan to pay them back, these debts will throw struggling renters straight back into the firing line of an automatic eviction as soon as the ban does lift.”

Amina Gichinga, of the London Renters Union, said: “Unless it takes action to cancel the debt that hundreds of thousands of renters are in because of the coronavirus pandemic, today’s announcement simply kicks the can down the road. We are still heading for a chaotic rent debt and eviction crisis this summer unless the government cancels rent debt and makes the eviction ban permanent.”

Dame Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said the pause was a welcome breathing space, but added: “Simply extending the pause of repossession is a sticking plaster not a cure. People who have fallen behind on rent arrears and those who have been furloughed or lost their jobs will need the security of proper reform to the rules governing evictions.”

Dan Wilson-Craw of the campaign group Generation Rent said: “The government must use the time it has bought itself to develop a long term solution to provide rent relief and end unfair evictions for good.”

Campaigners are sceptical that many landlords will voluntarily agree to rent renegotiations with tenants in arrears. Some surveys show approximately half of tenants who asked their landlord for a rent holiday in recent weeks have been refused. There are about 8 million renters in the UK, of whom 4.5 million have private landlords, with the remainder renting from social landlords such as councils and housing associations.

Thousands Of New Homes To House Rough Sleepers

Plans to provide thousands of long-term, safe homes for vulnerable rough sleepers taken off the streets during the pandemic have been unveiled by Housing Secretary Robert  Jenrick MP.

This commitment will be backed by £160 million this year and will support many of the thousands of rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation to move on to more sustainable, long-term housing. By accelerating plans for the £381 million announced for rough sleeping services at Budget – now extended to £433 million – the funding will ensure that 6,000 new housing units will be put into the system, with 3,300 of these becoming available in the next 12 months.

In addition to accelerating this capital spend for investment in housing stock, the government is also increasing the revenue support of the total programme by 37% to make sure that the rough sleepers have the support they need to stay off the streets for good. Once in their new home, rough sleepers will be supported by specialist staff to access the help they need, such as support for mental health or substance abuse problems, so they can rebuild their lives, move towards training and work, and remain off the streets for good.

Thanks to the efforts of charities, local government and other partners, in just over two months, more than 90% of rough sleepers known to councils at the beginning of the pandemic have now been offered accommodation where they can remain safe and able to protect themselves during the crisis. The plans are being pulled together by the Rough Sleeping Covid 19 Response Taskforce, led by Dame Louise Casey, bringing together local government, charities, faith groups, public sector partners and businesses in order to use the coronavirus crisis and current successful work so far in bringing ‘everyone in’ as a catalyst towards ending rough sleeping for good.

As part of this commitment, Homes England, in partnership with Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has pledged to work hand-in-hand with leading housing associations and local authorities to fast-track thousands of units of longer-term accommodation for rough sleepers needed now.

Over the coming weeks, government will work in partnership with councils, local leaders and the property sector to ensure this new generation of housing for some of the most vulnerable in society is delivered as quickly as possible and in the most cost-effective way.  Interim accommodation is also being committed by the YHA, the YMCA and some universities. The taskforce will continue to work with partners on this so that nobody has to go back to the streets.

Calls For Housing Secretary To Resign Over ‘Suspicious’ Deal

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick is facing calls to resign after he admitted “unlawfully” signing off a 1,500-home development that saved a Tory Party donor millions of pounds.

The £1bn project, on the former Westferry Printworks site on London’s Isle of Dogs, was approved in January by Jenrick, reports Huffington Post. But the housing secretary’s decision came just a day before Tower Hamlets Council approved a new rate for its Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a move that would have increased the property owner’s financial liability to the local authority by between £30m and £50m.

That money would have been spent mitigating the impact of the development on the local area, and improving local services. Instead, thanks to Jenrick’s timing, it stayed in the pocket of the developer. Now Boris Johnson is under pressure to reveal what knowledge, if any, he had of the deal.

The building used to be the Daily Express printworks on the Millwall waterfront. The land is owned by Northern & Shell, which is in turn owned by publishing magnate and former Tory donor Richard Desmond. Jenrick has been labelled “unfit to continue to serve” after denying vital investment in east London where affordable housing is scarce. The Labour Party has also written to the cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill calling for an investigation into the matter.

Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse – the constituency that includes the printworks – told HuffPost UK: “We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the entire country and struggle with the near-impossible situation of having soaring monthly rents, which all too often mean people, particularly those on low incomes, are faced with an increased risk of homelessness. This whole debacle is further evidence that this government is more interested in serving billionaires rather than local people. The housing minister – whose properties include a £1.1m mansion built by an 18th century slave-trader – should consider his position given the alleged revelations surrounding the quashing of the planning permission for the huge Westferry Printworks scheme.”

The council began legal action in March, alleging that the timing of the decision appeared to show bias. It asked the High Court to order the government to disclose documents that, it argued, would show Jenrick was influenced by a desire to help Desmond save money by avoiding the charges. Faced with the prospect of having to publicly release documents relating to the case, Jenrick accepted his decision letter was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias” and confirmed it was deliberately issued before the new CIL policy could be adopted. He agreed planning permission should be quashed and decided by a different minister.

The story was originally reported by the East London Advertiser last week and followed up by The Times on Wednesday. In an editorial, the national newspaper called for further “scrutiny”. “It is an extraordinary admission that requires an explanation rather than just passing the decision on to another minister,” it said. Now political parties are demanding answers amid claims the controversy has been masked by Dominic Cummings dominating the headlines.

In his letter to the cabinet secretary, Labour’s shadow housing and planning minister Mike Amesbury wrote: “The consequence of Mr Jenrick’s decision was to save a developer a very great amount of money and [gives] rise to serious questions which require answers.” In a further statement, he added: “Serious questions need to be answered about why this decision was taken, a decision which could have saved a Conservative donor tens of millions of pounds, and in the process deprived local residents of vital infrastructure funding. It’s essential that we have transparency in processes such as this so that trust can be maintained in our housing and planning system. I hope the Cabinet Office will uphold this spirit of transparency, do the right thing and conduct a thorough investigation into the events around this decision.”

Amesbury said the investigation should establish what discussions were held between Jenrick or his office and the developer, and what knowledge Prime Minister Boris Johnson had of the case, if any. The party wants the correspondence that Jenrick avoided handing over to be published and how it can trust the decision when it is taken again by a different cabinet member.

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat housing, communities and local government spokesperson, told HuffPost UK: “Jenrick’s calculated decision to sign off a huge development just in time to save a party donor millions exposes something rotten at the heart of this Conservative government. This is yet another example of Tory ministers showing it is one rule for them and their cronies, and another for everyone else. If the minister accepts his decision to sign off the project was unlawful, then he should also accept that he is unfit to continue to serve in that role.”

Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis has called for the Metropolitan Police to look into the matter, and the Conservative Party leader in Tower Hamlets has resigned from the party altogether because it looks “very suspicious”.

In an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Jenrick told Adam Boulton the application was decided “on its merits” and done “without any actual bias”. He added: “But clearly the way that the process was run gave rise to some concerns and so that’s why we’ve chosen to quash the decision.” The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “While we reject the suggestion that there was any actual bias in the decision, we have agreed that the application will be redetermined.”

Carry On Helping Rough Sleepers After Lockdown

Councils have been urged to carry on helping rough sleepers into accommodation during the coronavirus outbreak after claims efforts and funding had “fizzled out”.

The government’s homelessness adviser Dame Louise Casey told local authorities not to “discriminate” against people seeking shelter and safety amid the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Sky News. She called for work to help people off the streets to continue until lockdown is lifted.

Sky News has spoken to the charity Crisis, which helps homeless people. The charity has warned the ‘get everyone in’ drive to accommodate rough sleepers when coronavirus cases ballooned in the UK at the end of March was leaving some people without help. Matt Downie, director of policy, said that in some local areas the drive to get people off the streets had “fizzled out”, with some councils just focused on supporting those already in hotels.

He added that some councils had “run out of money and energy to continue to make sure the job’s still done”, after exhausting the £3.2m funding from the UK government. And Mr Downie warned some local authorities were also readopting tests that rough sleepers seeking help normally have to go through – such as proving a local connection to the area or lawful immigration status.

Speaking on Tuesday, Dame Louise said councils should be helping anyone who needs it. “Lockdown isn’t over,” she said. “The virus is still here and we haven’t found a vaccine. Until we’re able to organise for people who are street homeless and in communal night shelters, a way they can be safe, then actually the job isn’t done.

“The virus doesn’t choose whether you’re from Portugal or Kent, the virus doesn’t discriminate on that basis. Until we’re through that we’ve got to play by the book and make sure from a humanitarian perspective we’re being sensible. And if we think they are genuine long-term rough sleepers, we bring them in off the street.”

She added that 14,600 people have been helped into accommodation so far – of whom between 5,000 and 7,000 were sleeping rough before the pandemic. But in Westminster, one of the areas with the highest number of rough sleepers in England, the council leader has indicated help is in limited supply. In a letter to stakeholders on 12 May, Rachael Robathan said: “The answer however, cannot simply be to spend more money on expensive accommodation and services within Westminster.

“Westminster will do its part, but this has to be a national effort.” She added that she had raised her “concerns” with the government about “the levels of funding” given to councils and “the need for a national effort” to help rough sleepers post-lockdown.

Tackling Rough Sleeping After Lockdown

The government has a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to tackle rough sleeping, says Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram.

The two leaders – alongside other Labour mayors around the country – have made the unified call for government to honour its commitment to end rough sleeping by seizing the chance presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, reports the Liverpool Echo. The demand comes ahead of a virtual meeting between the Labour leader and Labour’s directly elected ‘metro mayors’.

According to official figures, during the coronavirus pandemic more than 5,000 rough sleepers have been offered emergency accommodation, including in hotels. However, Ministers have so far failed to commit to supporting those rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation.

The statement from Labour warns that government inaction “could see rough sleepers ending up back on the streets” and has called for “certainty over the future funding arrangements.” It adds: “When this crisis is over, we cannot return to business as usual…If the government is serious about its commitment to end rough sleeping, now is the time to act.”

The Manchester Evening News recently leaked a document from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority that suggested the government would not be giving any further dedicated funding for the ‘Everyone In’ scheme that has been ensuring homeless people have safe accommodation during the virus pandemic. Instead, cash-strapped councils were told to use their own resources to move rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation.

The major statement from Labour leaders is also signed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North Tyne and Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonnaire.

The statement in full: “Coronavirus is the biggest crisis our country has faced for a generation. But it has also presented us with a once in a generation opportunity: to help thousands of rough sleepers off the streets for good. Thanks to the incredible work of local government, and dedicated funding from central Government, that opportunity is within our grasp.”

“The Government has rightly committed to protecting vulnerable rough sleepers for the duration of the pandemic. However, the dedicated funding to house rough sleepers is set to run out and no clear plans or resources have been put in place by Government for what happens next. The Government needs to provide clarity on their ‘Everyone In’ policy, to include those made homeless during the lockdown, and certainty over the future funding arrangements.”

“Without this we could see rough sleepers ending up back on the streets. We also need to see policy changes for those with no recourse to public funds, and changes to Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit. These changes will help us move rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation and provide wrap-around support to help them stay there. We restate today our commitment to doing everything in our power to ensure that no one who has been helped off the streets during this period is forced to return. That includes non-UK nationals who wouldn’t normally be able to access welfare and other support.”

“But to achieve this we need the government to make the same pledge – and to back it up with actions. Warm words are worth nothing to those who were sleeping on the streets, and people across the country will not forgive us if this opportunity is missed. Mayors and council leaders are doing everything possible, but we need that commitment to be matched by government.”

“When this crisis is over, we cannot return to business as usual. Rough sleepers, some of whom are receiving support for the first time, have been brought safely off the streets. We cannot let that progress go to waste. This is an unprecedented opportunity to ‘build back better’ and avoid a return to business as usual. If the government is serious about its commitment to end rough sleeping, now is the time to act.”

In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Local Government said: “Councils should be proud of their efforts to get rough sleepers off the street, backed by an unprecedented continued package of government support. We have been clear councils must continue to provide safe accommodation for those that need it and provided £3.2m at the start of the pandemic so they could take immediate action and help rough sleepers off the street. Our new rough sleeping taskforce – spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey – will work with councils across the country to ensure as many rough sleepers as possible can move into long-term, safe accommodation.”

No Return To Rough Sleeping

Successful efforts to tackle rough sleeping during the Covid-19 pandemic risk being squandered if the Government fails to implement and fund a comprehensive exit strategy, say the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee in it’s interim report on protecting rough sleepers and renters.

The report calls for the Government to dedicate at least £100m per year in long-term housing support or risk thousands of people currently in temporary accommodation returning to the streets. The Committee further warns of a looming homelessness crisis as private sector renters currently unable to pay rent, face building up debt or losing their homes when the current ban on evictions expires.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, 90% of rough sleepers have been taken off the streets and housed in temporary accommodation. This has provided the Government with a unique opportunity to eradicate rough sleeping in England once and for all.

The Committee calls on the Government to work quickly to develop a housing-based exit strategy and identify the level of funding required to support it. This should be a dedicated funding stream that enables local authorities to ensure people are accommodated safely and securely, but must also provide for the additional support services to tackle the range of issues rough sleepers may face. The Housing First pilots provide an ideal model for such support and the rollout across the country should be accelerated.

The Government will need to consider how to ensure an adequate supply of immediately available supported housing. To this end they should work with the Local Government Association and National Housing Federation to develop targeted grant funding for councils and housing associations to acquire properties, including those close to completion that may no longer be in demand. The Government should remove restrictions on Right to Buy receipts so councils can use 100% of sales to fund these acquisitions and better replace lost housing stock.

There is also a looming crisis in the private rental sector with thousands of tenants unable to pay their rent having lost their jobs or seen a significant loss of income. The Government has banned evictions for a three-month period, which has ensured people have a home to live in but may result in amassing significant rent arrears. Citizen’s Advice calculated that up to 2.6 million private renters may have missed or expected to miss a rent payment in April. Without action from the Government, the possibility remains that there will be a cliff-edge of evictions once the temporary ban ends.

The Committee calls on the Government to consider amending existing legislation to provide greater security to tenants during the ongoing health crisis. This could include amending the Housing Act to enable judges to use discretionary powers where a tenant is in rent arrears due to Covid-19 for the next 12 months, that compels tenant and landlord to work together to find a solution and removes the option of eviction as the first resort. The Committee has included the text of a draft Bill as an example of how to achieve this. This would be supported by the abolition of the ‘no fault evictions’.

The Committee additionally calls for Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to be set at a level that reflects real market rents and ensures those in need are able to afford properties in their areas. The Government should guarantee that the rate be maintained at the 30th percentile in the long-term, and undertake an analysis of the impact of further rises in LHA rates on renters and the wider rental market.

Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts, said: “We must praise the efforts of all those who have done so much to help take people of the streets during the current health emergency, but what happens next is crucial. It is simply not good enough for anyone to leave temporary accommodation and end up back on the streets. This isn’t just about protecting vulnerable people from Covid-19. It is not safe to live on the streets in any circumstances and it is not acceptable to allow it to return once the health crisis abates.”

“In our report we have called on the Government to grasp the golden opportunity that has presented itself. For the first time in over a decade, rough sleepers have been comprehensively taken off the streets and given accommodation. This must become the new norm.”

“As it stands there are two main risks that need to be addressed if the current low levels of rough sleeping are to continue. Firstly, the Government needs to fund a comprehensive housing-led exit strategy for those currently being housed in short term accommodation during the Covid-19 crisis, which we estimate will cost around £100m a year. Secondly, the Government needs to amend legislation to ensure those in the private rented sector who have been caught up in the economic fallout of the pandemic are not evicted when the freeze on eviction proceedings ends.”

“In our interim report we have set out what the Government will need to do immediately in terms of funding, policy and legislation. There can be no question that we have to ensure no one is forced to live on the streets, we now expect the Government to put this achievable goal into long-term reality. We will continue our inquiry to explore how to deal with other long-term issues, such as the crucial issue of rent arrears.”

Post-Pandemic Eviction Fears For Renters

Almost 65,000 households in the UK could be facing eviction and homelessness when the government’s eviction ban is lifted next month, according to a renters’ union.

Many private tenants have been unable to pay rent and fallen into arrears at the hands of “unsympathetic” landlords during the coronavirus pandemic, reports Huffington Post. For some, the fear of eviction has impacted their mental health.

In March, the government announced the suspension of evictions for three months to protect private renters. During that period, landlords have not been able to start eviction proceedings and all previous possession cases have been put on hold. After June 29, however, courts will be able to begin hearing both new and existing cases again. The Tenants Union says this will put tens of thousands of households at risk of eviction and homelessness. Charity Shelter has called for judges to be given extra powers to keep people in their homes.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MCHLG) has said it will keep its protection for renters “under review”, but says landlords and tenants are “expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan” after June 29, with government guidance urging landlords to “show compassion”. However, a survey of more than 1,500 people carried out by campaign group Generation Rent found that the proportion of landlords who refused to offer any flexibility to struggling tenants outnumbered those who granted rent reductions that did not need to be repaid eight-to-one. In the same study, more than half of renters said they had lost income since the lockdown started.

Ben Clay from the Tenants Union said the issue was “a question of fairness”. While homeowners were offered a three-month mortgage holiday – which last week was extended for a further three months – renters were told to rely on the kindness of their landlords for a sense of security. “The eviction cliff edge is a huge issue for tenants right now,” he told HuffPost UK. “Generally the poorest in society are tenants because none of them can afford to buy a house, and yet they’re expected to pay more money back.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the charity had heard from renters who were “struggling more than ever as jobs are lost and incomes fall because of the crisis. She said: “If the government lifts the eviction ban without putting in protections for renters, it will unleash a wave of homelessness that will see councils drown and families needlessly suffer. That’s why it’s critical judges are given extra powers to keep people in their homes.”

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “The government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic to ensure no one can be forced from their home – and we will keep these measure under review. We continue to urge the need for landlords to work together at this time and to raise issues at the earliest opportunity to address any concerns to agree a workable way forward.”