Submission: HCLG Select Committee Inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector

By: Reshima Sharma  Published: December 2020


Summary

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Shelter has been contacted by thousands of people facing eviction, homelessness, and problems in their accommodation which make it unsuitable to stay safe and healthy in during the pandemic.

The government has introduced welcome interventions to protect street homeless people and private renters against the impact of COVID-19 and the resultant economic crisis. The swift action to accommodate people sleeping rough, suspend possession proceedings, and restore Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to the 30th percentile were hugely welcome and vital steps in protecting those at the sharpest end of the housing emergency throughout the pandemic.

However, despite the measures in place, people fell through the gaps in support. Hundreds of thousands of private renters have fallen into rent arrears. People with No Recourse to Public Funds have lost their jobs but have been left with no safety net to fall back on. Councils turned away people at risk of the streets without emergency accommodation. Private renters have been illegally evicted from their homes. Homeless families have had no option but to self-isolate in unsuitable, overcrowded temporary accommodation.

To protect private renters, homeless families and rough sleepers during and beyond this national lockdown, we are calling on the government to:

  1. Direct councils to accommodate everyone at risk of the street, by providing not only adequate funding but robust guidance, clarifying the basis on which everyone at risk of the street should be accommodated.
  2. Introduce a dedicated pot of funding for private renters who have fallen into “COVID” arrears.
  3. Suspend the benefit cap for at least one year, and keep Local Housing Allowance (LHA) in line with at least the 30th percentile of market rents.
  4. Ensure that no one is physically evicted from their homes this winter while we remain in full or partial lockdowns with bans on households mixing indoors.  
  5. Provide councils with enough funding to properly resource their tenancy relations service and Environmental Health practitioners, in order to help prevent unlawful evictions and enhance their capacity to resolve disrepair issues.

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