A group of housing organisations and charities have come together to urge the government to tackle the rent-debt crisis in the private-rented sector.
The joint statement calls for action during the next Budget, including a ‘targeted financial package’ to help renters pay off arrears and increased action on welfare – in particular on Local Housing Allowance rates and Universal Credit.
The group – which includes the National Residential Landlords Association, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and Shelter – warned that a lack of further support would cause more renters to lose their homes in the coming months, as well as a rise in homelessness.
Their statement reads: “At least half a million private renters are in arrears due to the economic impact of COVID-19. The UK government’s own research shows that ‘private renters report being hardest hit by the pandemic’.
“Renters and landlords whose finances have been affected since lockdown cannot keep tenancies going without additional financial support.
“We welcome many of the measures taken to date, which have helped to sustain tenancies in the short term. But they do not go far enough to adequately protect renters going forward.
“The longer the chancellor waits to take action, the more rent debts will increase, and the greater the risk of homelessness will become. Without additional support, more renters will lose their homes in the coming months, with the risk of an increase in homelessness.
“As organisations with the aim of sustaining tenancies wherever possible, we consider that this requires two things in the forthcoming Budget.
“First, a targeted financial package to help renters pay off arrears built since lockdown measures started in March last year. This will help to sustain existing tenancies and keep renters in their homes – whilst also ensuring rental debt does not risk them finding homes in the future.
“Secondly, we need a welfare system that provides renters with the security of knowing that they can afford their homes. The pandemic has shown how vital this is to providing security at a time of crisis.
“The government increased Universal Credit and Housing Benefit because it recognised that the system was not doing enough to support people in the first place, yet it has chosen to freeze Housing Benefit rates again from April and is considering cutting Universal Credit at the same time.
“It cannot be right that these measures could be pulled away from renters during continued economic uncertainty.
“We urge the chancellor to act now to avoid renters being scarred by debts they have no hope of clearing and a wave of people having to leave their homes in the weeks and months to come.”
The joint statement has been issued by The Big Issue Ride Out Recession Alliance, Crisis, Citizens Advice, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Money Advice Trust, The Mortgage Works, National Residential Landlords Association, Nationwide Building Society, Propertymark, StepChange Debt Charity, and Shelter.
Earlier in the week, Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced that a ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in England would be extended till 31 March.
The ban was introduced around the start of the pandemic to protect private renters and will remain in place for “all but the most serious cases”.
Image: WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock
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