Half a million renters at ‘high risk’ of eviction as furlough scheme is wound down
Half a million people are at “high risk” of homelessness because of coronavirus, according to 187 local councils across England.
It comes as the Government warns it’s in talks to wind down the furlough scheme – with the Bank of England suggesting unemployment could reach 9% by the end of the year.
Charity Shelter said first time benefit claimants face falling behind with payments and ending up in debt as jobs are cut and payment holidays come to a close.
The government has made housing benefits more generous to help those most in need during the pandemic.
It has increased universal credit payments by £1,000 and also suspended evictions for the duration of the crisis.
But Shelter said many of the nearly 2million people who are applying for universal credit to help them through the crisis are finding that it does not come close to covering their rent.
The charity is calling on the government to temporarily increase the housing element of the benefit – the Local Housing Allowance – to match 50% of the average rent in an area.
At the moment, payments are based on the bottom 30% of rents in an area.
Shelter said renters relying on universal credit must find an estimated £13million a week in total to keep up with their rent payments – a figure that is unsustainable.
Chief executive Polly Neate said she hoped the government would listen because the country needed people to get back on their feet to help economic recovery, rather than being crippled by debt and insecure accommodation.
“With just a bit of help, they can ride out this crisis, they get can get a new job, and move somewhere cheaper.
“Without that help, we are just going to see a tsunami of evictions once the lockdown ends.”
Figures from The District Councils Network also show more than 486,242 households are spending over half their income on private rented housing.
The network, which represents 187 local authorities in England, said lone parents with children, young people and households on low incomes are particularly in danger of being tipped “over the edge” into homelessness.
It is calling for a permanent boost to housing benefits for those in private rented homes, and more funding for councils to fight homelessness, build homes and create jobs.
Councillor Giles Archibald, the network’s Better Lives spokesman, said: “The government has already rightly acted to support businesses and residents, but to avert a huge rise in homelessness it must now put the housing crisis at the centre of its exit strategy and recovery effort to support people as the scale of the economic impact becomes clearer.”
A government spokesperson said: “We’re committed to supporting all those affected by Covid-19 through these unprecedented times and we’ve implemented an enormous package of measures to do so.
“We’ve injected more than £6.5bn into the welfare system, including helping over one million households by raising Local Housing Allowance rates for universal credit and housing benefit claimants.
“And we’ve increased protections for renters to prevent evictions due to difficulties caused by Covid-19.
“We’ve also provided £180m in Discretionary Housing Payments to local authorities this year to further support those most in need.”