Despite government assurances that tenants will be protected during the pandemic, over 70,000 households have found themselves homeless since the Covid crisis began.
Robert Jenrick, housing secretary, tweeted “no one should lose their home as a result of the coronavirus epidemic” back in March of last year.
However, even though evictions were banned for most of the previous 10 months, figures from the Observer show that over 200,000 households were forced to contact their local council for assistance with homelessness between April and November.
Campaigners have said that the increase in homelessness is due to friends and family no longer willing to house people during the pandemic.
Thangam Debbonaire, shadow housing secretary, said: “The government promised nobody would lose their home because of coronavirus. These figures show that promise has been broken.
“Instead of last-minute U-turns and piecemeal homelessness support, the government needs to support renters, crack down on illegal evictions, and ensure nobody spends this lockdown on the streets.”
Head organiser of the tenants union Acorn, Nick Ballard, said: “As we predicted, a combination of illegal evictions, reactivated processes from before the pandemic, tenants under pressure to leave before eviction, and lodgers who have never been protected has led to hundreds of thousands facing homelessness.
“The government needs to stop protecting the interests of price-gouging landlords over working people and commit to an indefinite eviction ban for the duration of the crisis – not just a pause on enforcement – and immediately waive Covid-related rent debt and extend protection from eviction to lodgers.”
The government faced heavy criticism earlier this month when it made the decision not to bring back the “everyone in” initiative which aided rough sleepers at the start of the pandemic.
Housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, David Renard, said: “It is likely that councils will need further support in the difficult weeks and months ahead to move people into safe and secure housing and prevent further homelessness. This includes the removal of the “no recourse to public funds” condition so that councils can ensure that everyone who is vulnerable can access help if needed, regardless of immigration status, and properly resourcing local welfare schemes to prevent further hardship and potential homelessness.”
Chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, said: “Even with the bailiff ban extended, we know people will still become homeless every day as they have done throughout this pandemic. Homelessness doesn’t just come from legal evictions. It comes from breakdowns in relationships, fleeing domestic abuse, illegal evictions, or when those with no real protection under the law, like lodgers, are kicked out. And indeed many of the people who were previously ‘hidden homeless’ because they were sofa-surfing now have nowhere to go due to Covid restrictions and face the very real threat of passing the virus on.”
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