Generation Rent is calling for a furlough-type scheme aimed at helping tenants.
The group says that following news of the four week lockdown in England, it wants the government to adopt a ‘Coronavirus Home Retention Scheme’ that would:
- suspend evictions for rent arrears, to ensure that renters who have lost income due to the pandemic do not also lose their home;
- ensure the benefits system covers housing costs, through restoring Local Housing Allowance to the median rent, removing benefit caps, expanding eligibility, and scrapping no recourse to public funds;
- make £750m available to clear the debts for renters and allow landlords to claim for discretionary payments to cover up to 80 per cent of lost income.
The group - led by Baroness Alicia Kennedy - is calling on the government to raise Local Housing Allowance to cover the median rent so that families do not get into debt and to set up a fund to clear the debts of renters who have already got into serious arrears by compensating landlords up to 80 per cent of the rent owed.
It is also renewing its long-standing call for the abolition of Section 21 evictions “to prevent unnecessary hardship now that courts have reopened.”
After the renewed lockdown ends, the Job Retention Scheme is being replaced by the Job Support Scheme to pay employees working a fifth or more of normal hours at least 74 per cent of their wage, and employees in businesses forced to close 67 per cent of their wages.
Generation Rent claims job sectors including nightlife, entertainment, events and sport face continued restrictions on operations so the end of the 80 per cent guaranteed furlough - now scheduled for December 2 - means many employees face redundancy or reduced income.
Based on Labour Force Survey data, Generation Rent estimates that of 1.4m employees in these sectors, 341,000 are private renters. Then it says there are a further 62,000 private renters working across Great Britain in sectors that could face closure under Tier 3 measures, including leisure centres, hairdressers and betting shops.
These 403,000 workers will become more reliant on Universal Credit to pay their rent, the campaign says.
Baroness Kennedy says: “As the furlough scheme nears its end, people are worrying about how they will keep their heads above water. More than a million employees are at risk of redundancy and a quarter of them are private renters.
“Thousands of renters started claiming Universal Credit at the start of the pandemic and have found that it is nowhere near enough to cover the rent they owe.
“Every month their debt piles up. Without additional support for renters, the government will preside over mass impoverishment of millions of people.”