Calls for eviction ban to be extended to avert winter homelessness crisis
PUBLISHED: 18:13 18 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:13 18 September 2020
Labour’s Keir Starmer and the Green Party Sian Berry are among the voices urging the government to extend the ban on evictions which is due to end on Sunday (September 20).
Renters have been protected from eviction during the Covid-19 outbreak by a ban announced in March, which was then extended.
The government said it has taken “unprecedented action to support renters”, but Cllr Berry - co-leader of the Greens, a Highgate councillor and London mayoral candidate - said: “Everybody has a right to a home.
“It is frankly unconscionable that during a pandemic and a massive economic downturn people face being forced on to the streets.
“Unfortunately, neither the Conservatives nor Labour are doing enough to help renters hit by the coronavirus crisis.
“The short extensions to the ban have done nothing to alleviate the fears of renters up and down the country. We are now once again on the precipice of a homelessness crisis which will not only bring misery to many but will also hinder any effort to tackle Covid-19.
“We must do whatever it takes to protect people through the pandemic and that means a permanent ban on evictions for the duration of this crisis.
“As with most crises, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who face being hardest hit. It is within the government’s power to ensure nobody is left without the basic human right of a roof over their head.”
Mr Starmer, the Labour leader and MP for Holborn and St Pancras, tweeted: “The evictions ban must be extended before Sunday, and the government needs to come forward with a credible plan to keep their promise that no renter will lose their home because of coronavirus.”
In August the government announced that landlords must give tenants six months’ notice, but Labour said this does not apply to those served notice before this point.
The party’s shadow housing secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, said: “Coronavirus cases are rising, vast swathes of the country are set to be under local lockdown, and the Covid jobs crisis is set to get worse.
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“This is no time for the Government to re-start evictions.
“The government is walking right into a homelessness crisis this winter.
“They’ve wasted the short time they bought themselves by extending the ban in August, prioritising reopening old wounds on Brexit above protecting renters.
“The ban must be extended before Sunday, and the government needs to come forward with a credible plan to keep their promise that no renter will lose their home because of coronavirus.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “These claims are misleading - we’ve taken unprecedented action to support renters by banning evictions for six months, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries.
“We have now gone further by changing the law to increase notice periods to six months to help keep people in their homes over the winter months and introducing a ‘winter truce’ on the enforcement of evictions for the first time.
“In addition we have put in place a welfare safety net of nearly £9.3 billion and increased Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the lowest 30 per cent of market rents.”
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said: “Extending notice periods on evictions to six months gives people better protection but the government can’t keep kicking the can down the road.
“It needs to act now to prevent thousands of people from being forced into homelessness when the eviction ban ends.
“As the financial impact of the pandemic is beginning to take its toll, thousands of people are struggling to keep on top of paying their rent through no fault of their own.
“The government must introduce a financial package of support for people who are in arrears because of coronavirus, to give security to both tenants and landlords at this time.
“The government must also immediately introduce emergency legislation to gives courts discretion to ensure no one is unfairly evicted in these difficult times.”
Additional reporting by Shaun Connolly, PA political correspondent.
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