Although the ban on evictions in England was extended until September 20 at the 11th hour, it has done little to allay fears of renters longer-term. Both renters and homeowners are still facing uncertainty over their incomes as jobs are shed across all sectors at an unprecedented rate. And with the furlough scheme due to end in October, there is a very real worry that unemployment levels will skyrocket.
Housing is a devolved matter handled at Westminster for England, Holyrood for Scotland and the Welsh Assembly for Wales, so all three nations have slightly differing approaches to tackling the impact of decimated household incomes on people’s ability to keep a roof over their heads. This of course is not helped by the cliff-edge nature of policymaking from Downing Street, and confusing U-turns – the frequently shifting morass of information can be daunting and difficult to navigate.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, says: “Many renters have faced an impossibly tough time during the pandemic, trying to juggle paying rent with wage cuts or job losses. Our frontline services hear from people every day who are desperately struggling to keep their heads above water.”
Shelter – with whom The Big Issue has been partnering on our RORA campaign from its inception – is calling on government to do more, to protect renters in particular.
“Once Parliament resumes, judges must be given extra powers to stop people losing their homes because of rent arrears caused by coronavirus. And long-term, we desperately need major reforms to make renting fairer, more affordable and more secure,” Neate adds.
Support through benefits and legislation introduced early in the pandemic is available to both renters and homeowners, and organisations like Shelter and Citizens Advice have information on how to tap into that help.