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Coronavirus: Town Hall chiefs fear spike in homelessness after temporary evictions ban ends

PUBLISHED: 19:00 23 March 2020

A file image of a homeless man holding a sign in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

A file image of a homeless man holding a sign in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

The leader of the local authority has demanded “bold” action to prevent a spike in homelessness from coronavirus.

Barking and Dagenham Council leader, Cllr Darren Rodwell, led warnings by fellow borough chiefs that more needs to be done to support renters, rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation during the Covid-19 emergency.

Cllr Rodwell, speaking in his role as executive member for housing and planning at organisation London Councils, said: “This is an emergency situation that requires a bold and decisive response.

“Boroughs are working flat out to help residents, including homeless Londoners, but we need further action at a national level.”

He welcomed a government commitment to ending evictions as “a good first step”, but added more needed to be done to address London’s “chronic” housing insecurity.

Councils across the capital fear a temporary eviction ban may store up pressures that later lead to a spike in homelessness.

They want the welfare system to be used to stabilise household finances and deliver immediate support for those struggling with housing costs.

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“High rates of homelessness also risk undermining London’s public health response to coronavirus. We urgently need more guidance and resources for rough sleepers and others who don’t have anywhere to self-isolate,” Cllr Rodwell said.

The capital faces both the highest number of coronavirus cases and the worst homelessness crisis in the country.

More than 57,000 London households – including 88,000 children – live in temporary accommodation.

London Councils, which represents the 32 boroughs and City of London Corporation, worries potential job losses and drops in income mean many people will build up rent arrears they can’t afford to repay, leading to a rapid rise in homelessness once the evictions ban is lifted.

The government announced on Thursday, March 19, that no renter in social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home.

A three month mortgage payment holiday has been extended to landlords. At the end of this period, they will be expected to thrash out an affordable repayment plan with tenants, taking their circumstances into account.

People with help to buy loans will also be offered interest payment holidays.

Housing secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, said: “These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need.”

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