An influential group of MPs want an end to repeated last minute extensions of the eviction ban and instead want financial support for tenants.
All-stakeholder committee of housing communities and local governments, led by Labor MP Clive Betts, says government must establish a system of financial support for tenants who have accumulated large rent arrears, and reveal it as soon as possible .
Helping tenants pay their arrears will be the easiest and most direct way to avoid evictions and help landlords collect income. The potential cost of £ 200 million to £ 300 million would avoid significant spending on helping the homeless, MEPs say.
The latest MPs report, released today, praises the government’s efforts to bring the homeless indoors during the first months of the pandemic and through the winter, but saves much of its criticism on the way the government has treated private tenants.
Clive Betts says: “The current rent arrears crisis in the private rental sector is of deep concern. The economic consequences of the pandemic could be long lasting and become even more serious.
“The ban on evictions has allowed people to stay in their homes for now, but the debt will continue to rise. Homeowners, many of whom only own one or two properties, will also struggle with a loss of income.
“The government will have to find a solution that is viable for tenants and fair for owners. The gravity of the situation means that it must be treated the same as other sectors of the economy and society that have a clear roadmap to come out of lockdown.
“Helping tenants pay their rent arrears would come at a cost, but ultimately prevent significant spending on helping homeless people down the road. “
MPs say the arrears problem has been “an impending cliff edge” during the duration of the pandemic, and say several options exist to show how financial assistance could be given to tenants.
These include the low interest loans adopted in Scotland and Wales and the modified discretionary housing payments.
“The critical element will be speed and the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government should come up with a proposal as soon as possible,” the committee said.
“Helping tenants pay their rent arrears is the easiest and most direct way to avoid evictions and help landlords earn income. The committee received an estimate that such a rent arrears relief program could potentially cost between £ 200 million and £ 300 million; However, given the number of potential evictions it could prevent, it would likely save a significant amount of money on homeless assistance.
The committee also calls for an improvement in the provision of housing for social rental properties, concluding: “The government must invest in a social housing construction program that provides 90,000 social rental housing units per year for the next decade.”