Repeated, last minute extensions to the ban on evictions must be replaced by a coherent exit plan to help the private rented sector emerge from lockdown says MP’s.

A report from the Housing Communities and Local Government Committee has found that the 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 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 calls 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 calls 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.

Publishing the report, Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts MP said:

“It is just over a year since the pandemic transformed our lives. In that time the Government has done great work, alongside partners in local government, healthcare and the charity sector, to ensure that rough sleepers were kept off the streets. However, cracks are beginning to show in this strategy and people are being allowed to fall through the gaps.

“Individuals with no recourse to public funds due to their immigration status need to be helped, especially during a national health emergency. Relying on charities to step in is not good enough. The Government needs to be clear with local authorities on their responsibilities, and provide sufficient funding to support them. They should also develop as task force to consider exactly how its policies on immigration, housing and elsewhere impact on homelessness and come up with solutions to address them. They have set a target of ending rough sleeping by 2024. We will hold them to this standard.

“The ongoing crisis of rent arrears in the private rented sector is deeply concerning. The economic consequences of the pandemic could be long-lasting and become even more severe. The ban on evictions has ensured that people remain in their homes for now, but the debt will continue to increase. Landlords, many of whom only own one or two properties, will also be struggling with a loss of income.

“The Government will have to find a solution that is workable for tenants and fair for landlords. The gravity of the situation means it should be treated just the same as other sectors of the economy and society that have a clear roadmap out of lockdown. Helping tenants pay their rent arrears would come at a cost, but would ultimately prevent significant expenditure on homelessness assistance further down the line.”


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