MPs fear a rise in homelessness in Britain when a ban on evictions ends next week.
In March the government suspended section 21 of the Housing Act – which allows landlords to evict tenants from their home with very little notice – as part of emergency legislation to protect those hit financially by the pandemic.
The end of the ban could see a surge in people being evicted from their home ahead of a potential second wave of coronavirus as we approach winter, an already hellish time for people who live on the streets.
The spread of COVID-19 has meant communal homeless shelters have been forced to close.
Vacant hotels and B&Bs were repurposed into homes as a solution for rough sleepers because they have separate cleaning facilities and rooms, and can be leased by the government.
But as restrictions ease and with hotel contracts coming to an end in certain areas, charities warn we could face a “desperate situation”.
Twenty-one MPs have urged the government to guarantee council funds to house rough sleepers for a year amid fears that evictions may lead to "a new wave of homelessness".
In a letter to rough-sleeping minister Luke Hall, the MPs called on him to guarantee all local authorities in England can fund accommodation for the homeless for “at least a year”, according to the BBC.
The letter said: "Some local authorities are in the process of confirming and funding accommodation for rough sleepers for another year, however it is so important that all councils are able to provide this.
"We cannot put a cut-off on showing all those in need compassion at this time.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter told Yahoo News that thousands more could be left homeless once the eviction ban lifts and have received calls from tenants who are “terrified they will lose their homes”.
"The eviction ban lifts in England in under a week’s time, and with the country plunged into an unprecedented recession, thousands could face the horror of losing their homes later this year, Neate said.
"By June almost 230,000 private renters had fallen behind with their rent because of this pandemic - a figure we fear is only likely to grow as more jobs are cut. And as the law currently stands, any renter who builds up eight weeks-worth of arrears or more can be automatically evicted, with judges powerless to help.
"Every day our emergency helpline picks up calls from renters terrified of being turfed out. That’s why we are urging the government not to abandon them at the eleventh hour.”
The letter, which was signed by nine Labour MPs, one DUP MP and 10 Lib Dem MPs, including leadership candidates Sir Ed Davey and Layla Moran, also urged Hall to scrap the Vagrancy Act, a 195-year-old law that criminalises homeless people for rough sleeping and begging in England and Wales.
The act allows police to arrest and fine people caught begging in public.
In March, as the lockdown began, councils were told to move homeless people off the streets and out of communal shelters.
The government says around 15,000 people have been found emergency accommodation across England.
The Labour Party has called for emergency legislation to strengthen protection for renters.
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has asked the government not to extend the eviction ban.
Independent polling for the NRLA found that 87% of private tenants have paid their rent as normal throughout the pandemic.
An additional 8% said that they had agreed a reduced rent or rent-free period, or made some other agreement with their landlord or letting agent.
Recent statistics from the Greater London Authority show a 33% increase in the numbers of people rough sleeping in London between April and June this year, compared with the same period last year.
Almost 230,000 adult private renters in England (3%) have fallen into arrears since the start of the pandemic, according to data from Shelter.
174,000 private renters in England (2%) have already been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent.
Since lockdown began, one in four (25%) calls from private renters to - Shelter’s emergency helpline and webchat service have been from people scared of losing their home.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive at Crisis, told Yahoo News: “As time goes on, we are seeing more and more people becoming homeless as the financial strain of the pandemic takes its toll.
“With hotel contracts coming to an end in certain areas and no certainty about what will follow, we could face a desperate situation with more people forced to stay in overcrowded and unsafe accommodation, left exposed to coronavirus and increased health risks as the weather turns cold.
“The Westminster government must introduce emergency homelessness legislation to guarantee that everyone has a safe place to stay during this ongoing public health crisis.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The government has taken unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic.
“We’ve also ensured no tenants have been evicted at the height of COVID.”
“We will continue to provide appropriate support to those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus when court proceedings start again including the requirement for landlords to provide more information about their tenants' situation when seeking an eviction, with judges able to adjourn a case if this information isn’t provided.”
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