‘Wave of homelessness’ predicted if eviction ban lifted without support

Shelter said such a move could overwhelm councils and cause unnecessary suffering.

Letting agent signs (Yui Mok/PA)
Letting agent signs (Yui Mok/PA)

Lifting the suspension of evictions without protecting renters will “unleash a wave of homelessness” that will overwhelm local authorities and cause needless suffering, a charity has warned.

Shelter said around half of homeless households were not helped to secure a home by councils in England between October and December last year, in its analysis of new Government figures.

This suggests local authorities will be unable to cope if increased numbers of families become homeless during the coronavirus pandemic, it says.

In March the Government announced the suspension of evictions for three months to stop renters losing their homes during the crisis.

Generation Rent has called for this period to be extended, while Shelter says it is “critical” that judges are given extra powers to keep people in their homes.

New statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), show a provisional 67,280 households were assessed as homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and eligible for help in the final quarter of 2019.

Of the 39,170 homeless households whom councils had a duty to provide relief to during this period, 41% were helped to secure a home and 8% of households were no longer owed a relief duty for various reasons.

The remaining 51% were households who were not helped within 56 days, who the council lost contact with and who refused their offer of final accommodation.

At the time of applying for help, just under a quarter (24%) of households found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness were privately renting.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “Even before the pandemic councils were barely able to help half the homeless people turning to them.

“The system will buckle if more families become homeless once the evictions ban is lifted in a few short weeks.

“We know private renting is deeply unstable at the best of times.

“Now we are hearing from renters who are struggling more than ever as jobs are lost and incomes fall because of the crisis.

“Many people are facing rent arrears and mounting debt.

“If the Government lifts the eviction ban without putting in protections for renters, it will unleash a wave of homelessness that will see councils drown and families needlessly suffer.

“That’s why it’s critical judges are given extra powers to keep people in their homes.”

MHCLG said £489 million has been committed this year to stop people from becoming homeless – a £121 million increase on the previous year.

A spokeswoman said: “During these unprecedented times, we continue to work intensively with councils to get everyone who is sleeping rough off the streets and into safe accommodation, backed by £3.2 billion to help councils deal with the immediate pressures they are facing during the pandemic, including accommodating rough sleepers.

“Support from central Government has ensured that 90% of rough sleepers have been offered accommodation during this pandemic and Dame Louise Casey is leading a task force that will seek to ensure that as many rough sleepers as possible can move to long-term, stable accommodation.”

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