Greater Manchester Leaders have written to Government calling for an extension to the temporary evictions ban over fears of a surge in people at risk of becoming homeless.
A national ban on evictions for renters was introduced by Government at the start of the pandemic and is due to end on Monday 24 August – but the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) says it must be extended further until provisions for those affected have been introduced to avoid a housing crisis in the city-region.
The ban will be lifted next week in England and Wales, but in Scotland politicians are considering an extension until March 2021, and the Welsh Government has extended notice periods to six months until end September 2020.
In the letter, GMCA Leaders say they fear “homelessness could return to the streets of Greater Manchester on a scale not seen since the 1930s” if rapid and decisive action is not taken to avert a crisis.
The letter adds: “We urge you to make accommodations for the needs and requirements not only of Greater Manchester, but of districts in a similar position to ourselves – and we ask as a matter of great urgency to consider extending the evictions ban further until provisions have been put in place.”
GMCA Lead on Housing and Homelessness, Paul Dennett, said: “The coronavirus crisis has been difficult for many in our city-region. We know that thousands of people are struggling to make ends meet due to losing their jobs or being furloughed.
“It is vital the Government extends the temporary ban on evictions and protects renters avoid a housing crisis in Greater Manchester. They should consider steps such as writing off rent arrears for those affected by the consequences of Covid-19, suspending the benefit cap and ensuring the courts enforce pre-action protocols for landlords. It will make a huge difference and help prevent a spike in rough sleeping.
“In Greater Manchester we have re-housed 263 homeless people into settled accommodation following the ‘Everyone In’ policy and a further 470 individuals are in ongoing temporary accommodation. However, the number of people in the city-region at risk of eviction on the 24th has the potential to dwarf these successes, particularly as we are already over-stretching our services.
“It is a matter of urgency that the Government takes further action to protect renters, as well as offering help to landlords. Without taking these steps now there could be the potential for devastating consequences across our city-region.”
Figures provided by Shelter and YouGov surveys of the rental market show there are an estimated 7,2000 households currently in arrears and under threat of eviction in Greater Manchester.
The latest unemployment data for the city-region also shows the claimant count has increased to 141,000, an increase of 88% since March – with Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants rising by 27,050 (11%) during the same time period.
Meanwhile, in the private rented sector alone claimant numbers have risen by 25% to a total of 96,270 since March.
A total of 384,700 people in Greater Manchester have been furloughed, which is due to end in October 2020. Once furlough comes to an end experts anticipate there will be a further spike in unemployment and rent arrears.
To prevent a rise in evictions GMCA leaders are calling on the Government to put provisions in place to protect tenants.
Leaders say the Government should ensure courts enforce pre-action protocols for landlords who are looking to evict and find a route through the welfare system to write-off rent arrears caused by the consequences of the pandemic.
They are also calling for the Government to provide emergency prevention money to Local Authorities to enable them to support people at risk of eviction, while also allowing direct payment to landlords as a default for Universal Credit.
Improving communication between private landlords and the Department for Work and Pensions to prevent and resolve arrears arising unnecessarily would also help to avoid a growing crisis.
Greater Manchester has a long record of helping people with housing during times of crisis. At the start of the pandemic 2,000 homeless people were housed in hotels and other accommodation under the ‘Everyone In’ scheme.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has also committed to creating a Good Landlord Charter to help make a positive difference to the experience of renters and landlords across the city-region.