England could face a “new wave of homelessness” when the eviction ban ends later this month, MPs have warned.
With the 23 August deadline looming, MPs have urged the government to do more to protect the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless during the COVID-19 crisis and a potential ‘second wave’.
21 MPs have called on the government to guarantee council funds to house those sleeping rough for a year.
In a letter to rough sleeping minister Luke Hall, the MPs called for a guarantee that all local authorities in England fund accommodation for the homeless “for at least a year”.
The letter read: “Some local authorities are in the process of confirming and funding accommodation for rough sleepers for another year, however it is so important that all councils are able to provide this.
“We cannot put a cut-off on showing all those in need of compassion at this time.”
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The ban was introduced in March as part of emergency legislation to protect those hit financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MPs also urged the minister to scrap the Vagrancy Act – which still stands in England and Wales, having been repealed in Scotland, and allows police to arrest and fine people caught begging or sleeping rough in public.
The letter was signed by nine Labour MPs, one DUP MP and 10 Lib Dem MPs.
The government said it would “continue to provide appropriate support” to those affected by rough sleeping during the Coronavirus crisis.
“Toothless” repossession rules
In March, as the lockdown began, councils were told to move homeless people off the streets and out of communal shelters.
The government says about 14,500 people received emergency accommodation across England.
In England, ministers have said allowing eviction hearings to resume is an important step towards protecting landlords’ rights.
The government has said new repossession rules in England will provide appropriate protection for renters after eviction court hearings resume.
Labour has slammed the rules as “toothless”, calling for emergency legislation to bolster protection for renters.
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell went further, calling for the evictions ban in England and Wales to be extended for another year at least.
The National Residential Landlords Association has, however, called on ministers to resist calls for another extension of the evictions ban in England and Wales.
The UK-wide body says its research indicates the vast majority of tenants are either paying rent or have made arrangements with their landlord to avoid arrears.
New evictions in England and Wales had initially been suspended until 25 June, but the pause was extended to 23 August.
The Labour-led Welsh government has doubled the notice period required for evictions issued on or after 24 July to six months, excluding cases relating to anti-social behaviour.
The Scottish government has proposed extending its eviction ban on renters until March 2021.
A Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) spokesperson said it had taken “unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic”.
They said: “Nearly 15,000 rough sleepers have been housed in emergency accommodation since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We’ve also ensured no tenants have been evicted at the height of COVID.”
The MHCLG spokesperson added that new repossession rules in England for when post-eviction hearings restart will require landlords to provide more information about their tenants’ situation when seeking an eviction.
Judges will be able to “adjourn a case if this information isn’t provided”.