The activist group Generation Rent says the £65m package announced by the government over the weekend is not enough and must not be the only help on offer.
Baroness Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, says: “Hundreds of thousands of private renters who lost income during the pandemic have fallen into arrears and are still living with the dread that they will be made homeless.
“Generation Rent has long warned the government of the devastating effect that rent debt has on people’s lives, so we welcome this new funding and its recognition of how hard private renters have been hit in the past 18 months. It’s a significant step forward that will help keep people in their homes when they would otherwise have been evicted. But with rents rising and Universal Credit cut, we fear it won’t be enough to prevent families hitting crisis point.”
Shelter - another campaigning organisation wanting help for tenants - is more measured in its comments about the package.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, says: "This news will be a huge relief to renters who face losing their homes as a result of this pandemic. The Covid crisis saw incomes plummet and debts spiral. People have struggled to keep their heads above water, with the protections from the eviction ban and furlough now ended, the threat of homelessness is very real. With winter approaching, the government is absolutely right to act to keep people safe in their homes and prevent a wave of evictions and homelessness. For those who can access it, this funding will be a lifeline.”
The National Residential Landlords Association is also sceptical about whether the funding is sufficient.
“We welcome the announcement of this funding and urge local authorities to target it at those tenants most struggling with Covid rent debts” explains NRLA policy director Chris Norris.
“It is great news that those households worst hit by Covid related arrears may be able to access financial support. However, £65m does not fully reflect the scale of the problem. NRLA analysis has put the figure of Covid rent debts at over £300 million. With warnings that rent debts could pose a risk to the economic recovery and the Government admitting that many landlords are highly vulnerable to arrears the Chancellor must go further.”
The latest government data suggests that seven per cent of private sector tenants in England were in arrears in April and May this year.
As Landlord Today reported over the weekend, the £65m debt fund for renters in arrears will be given to councils in England to support low-income earners in rent arrears – helping to prevent homelessness and support families get back on their feet.
The government says that renters across the country have been protected throughout the pandemic because of government action, including a ban on evictions and a £400 billion support package for the economy.
This latest £65m comes on top of the £500m Household Support Fund, which was announced by the government in September and is helping vulnerable households across the country with the cost of food, energy, water and other essentials.
Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Eddie Hughes says: “We have taken action throughout the pandemic to support the most vulnerable families, and it is vital we continue to provide support as we enter the winter months. This new funding will support families that are struggling and help to get them back on their feet as we begin to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The £65m will be available through the winter months and households at risk of eviction or homelessness should contact their local council if they require support. The fund recognises the impact the pandemic has had on households in the private rented sector with the lowest income.”
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