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Housing

Act now on rent debt to prevent ‘wave’ of homelessness, say charities

Campaigners have called on ministers to produce a financial package amid growing concerns people are struggling to afford their rent

Campaigners have urged the Government to address rent debt and support tenants who risk losing their homes after falling behind on payments during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

An alliance of charities, advice services and lenders called on ministers to produce a targeted financial package amid growing concerns people are struggling to afford their rent. 

According to Citizens Advice, half a million tenants are behind on payments as the Covid crisis causes economic hardship across the country. As the pandemic continues to devastate the economy, the Office for National Statistics estimates 1.7 million people are currently unemployed, with 2.6 million expected to be out of work in total during 2021. 

A joint statement by 11 organisations, including The Big Issue, Crisis, Citizens Advice, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Shelter, said as well as financial support, the Government needed to commit to a welfare system that “provides renters with the security of knowing that they can afford their own homes”.  

The joint statement read: “Renters and landlords whose finances have been affected since lockdown cannot keep tenancies going without additional financial support.

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“We welcome many of the measures taken to date, which have helped to sustain tenancies in the short term. But they do not go far enough to adequately protect renters going forward.” 

The Government has refused to commit to extending the £20 increase for Universal Credit, which is currently being claimed by more than 6.2 million families and has been described as a “lifeline” by charities. 

The furlough scheme, which sees the Government pay up to 80 per cent of workers’ wages to prevent unemployment, is also set to end in April, prompting fears of further job losses. 

The campaigners said it “cannot be right” the Government is considering cutting Universal Credit “during continued economic uncertainty” and also urged ministers not to freeze Housing Benefit from April.

The statement went on: “The longer the Chancellor waits to take action, the more rent debts will increase, and the greater the risk of homelessness will become. 

“Without additional support, more renters will lose their homes in the coming months, with the risk of an increase in homelessness.

“We urge the Chancellor to act now to avoid renters being scarred by debts they have no hope of clearing and a wave of people having to leave their homes in the weeks and months to come.”

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