Councils fear soaring homelessness levels as eviction ban ends on May 31
Stefania Di Cio`
- Credit: Nick Ansell/PA
London could be facing a summer “wave of homelessness” according to a cross party group.
London Councils, which represents London’s 32 borough councils and the City of London, has highlighted a “triple whammy” of potential risks which might take homelessness to record levels.
The organisation cites the end of the eviction ban on May 31, high unemployment and rent arrears, and uncertainty over homelessness funding.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has previously said that renters will continue to be supported as Covid-19 restrictions ease. As part of a phased approach, eviction notice periods – which were previously extended to six months as an emergency measure during the pandemic – will be set at four months from June 1.
A survey from Shelter has found 22% of renters in England are worried they will lose or be asked to leave their current home at short notice.
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Camden councillor Meric Apak, cabinet member for better homes, told this paper he is concerned about the lifting of the eviction ban.
"Around one third of our residents rent from private landlords or agents and many will have suffered significant negative impacts on their finances through redundancy, reduced working hours, furloughing and increased costs of living through the pandemic," he said.
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“We want to help people to avoid homelessness. We will also support those experiencing the crisis of homelessness, helping them to recover and regain their independence.
“Rough sleeping is a complex issue, which transcends boroughs and even national boundaries. Most of the rough sleepers in Camden do not have a former connection to the borough and for this reason, we will continue to urge the Government to take measures which reduces rough sleeping nationally and prevent homeless individuals from becoming rough sleepers.”
Camden council is urging landlords to avoid evicting any tenants, and to contact the council if they feel they have no option. Private renters who are struggling to pay their rent or need advice can contact the council on 020 7974 4444 (option 9) or visit camden.gov.uk/private-renters-help-covid.
A Haringey Council spokesperson said the authority is concerned about rising levels of homelessness.
"We have received this year’s funding from MHCLG totalling £1.6m and plan to use this to continue some of our emergency Covid-19 pandemic provisions as well as to reinforce some of our existing services tackling rough sleeping across the borough," they said.
“The halt on evictions in place until the end of May 2021, has led to a reduction in households needing assistance during the pandemic – we anticipate a significant increase in homelessness applications after this period ends. We are investing in early prevention and intervention schemes and are targeting support to households identified as being most at risk of homelessness.
“We have expanded the capacity of our supported housing services to meet local need. We are continuing to bid for any funding made available and are investing in building new social housing and new supported housing to ensure that vulnerable people in Haringey have access to the housing support that they need.”
Advice can be found in Haringey via its website www.haringey.gov.uk/housing
A government spokesman said: “Thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, national restrictions are gradually being eased and it’s now the right time to start to lift the emergency measures we put in place.
“Tenants will continue to be supported with longer notice periods and financial help is still available such as the furlough scheme, which has been extended until the end of September.
“Evictions will not be carried out if a member of the home has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.”
Robert Taylor, from Camden Federation for Private Tenants, said: “We fear lots of people will lose the roof on their head for no fault of their own, as they are not aware of their rights and landlords act illegally.
“The government hasn’t intervened in any meaningful way with renters to try and help them overcome the difficulties that they are facing.”
According to latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), there are more than 60,000 homeless households in temporary accommodation in London – two-third of England’s total (95,370). Around 70% have at least one child. In Haringey the figure is 2,966, with 2,363 in Barnet and 520 in Camden. Of these, 80%, 55% and 52% respectively include children.
Boroughs spent an extra £107 million last year (2020/2021) on homelessness and through the Rough Sleeping Initiative (launched in 2018) and the “Everyone in” directive, local authorities are still providing emergency accommodation for 2,659 rough sleepers.
The government has pledged £750 million to tackle homelessness this year, and housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Ending rough sleeping is a personal mission for the prime minister and me – and we have made huge progress since he came into No.10, reducing rough sleeping by 43%.
“To build on this progress, we are making the biggest ever investment under the Rough Sleeping Initiative to provide vital services to those who need it most, as part of our drive to end rough sleeping for good.”
Barnet Council was approached for comment.