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Source: London Assembly

New evidence revealing that 1.2 million renters could slip through the Government’s Covid-19 support packages was published today, and Sian Berry AM warns that the worst impact will be in London. 

Research from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) on the financial effects of the coronavirus crisis shows that “the government must suspend rents and freeze mortgages, if we are to prevent the public health crisis turning into an evictions crisis down the line.”

Sian Berry warned last month that the nearly 2.5 million private renters in London would be hit hardest by any gaps in provision from Government help. London renters already struggle with high rents and renters are more likely to be in precarious or low-paid work.

NEF showed that a minimum wage worker will have disposable income reduced by 45 per cent if they lose their job. In London this means they will have just £238 a month for food and bill, but on average household cost £237 a month.

Sian Berry says:

This research backs up what I have been calling for – extending the eviction ban and cancelling rent arrears so renters are not left with unpayable debts. Without these crucial components the safety net the Government is trying to build will not hold, and we will see more and more people slip through it.

The rent suspension proposed by NEF would work in a similar way to my policy of cancelling rent debts. It makes more sense for landlords to be able to claim for relief directly from Government rather than millions of renters making individual claims, the people in the business of renting homes should have the business of applying for support, while the people simply living in them are given a temporary break.

Londoners in poverty already spend more than half their income on housing costs, without solid protections we risk a summer wave of people losing their homes, on top of what coronavirus has already cost us.

Sian’s work on the London Assembly on renters’ rights shows that two essential measures are necessary. 

The Government should:

•    Extend the eviction ban – do not lift it in June.
Lifting the ban on court proceedings risks a wave of new cases, even with the new protections the Mayor proposes. Many people will still fall through the cracks of this new support, including many in precarious work who cannot prove their loss of income is a direct effect of coronavirus. Extending the ban on evictions will give time for proper support to be put in place that does not create gaps and risk people losing their homes unfairly.

•    Forgive the arrears – make landlords claim, not tenants.
Increasing housing benefit rates and income support to levels that cover rents is necessary, but the early stages of the crisis have seen many renters building up arrears as debt to their landlords. They are being expected to put in place repayment plans at the worst possible time. The right way to approach this is to put the onus on Landlords by cancelling all arrears build up so far and requiring landlords to claim back from the Government for arrears accrued during the crisis, while also increasing benefit levels to cover rents in full for those who have lost incomes.

MIL OSI United Kingdom