Private renters need more help to ‘ride out crisis’

Thousands of private renters who have lost their jobs may face eviction when the coronavirus lockdown ends, the government has been warned. According to data from Shelter, close to half a million people are at “high risk” of homelessness, this is according to 187 local councils across England with shelter advising the benefits system is not helping enough.

Shelter advised many of the nearly two million people who are applying for universal credit to help them through the crisis are finding that it does not come close to covering their monthly rent leaving them at risk of missing payments and accruing debt.

Many are left in limbo because they can’t move to cheaper accommodation, or get a new job, due to the lockdown.

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 says hard-hit renters relying on universal credit must find an estimated £13m a week in total to keep up with their rent payments, which could add up to a £660m black hole in their finances over the next 12 months if the government fails to act.

Chief executive Polly Neate said

“I 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.”

In response, government officials said: “We’re fully 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.”

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