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Councils and housing associations call for safety net as ban on bailiff-enforced evictions ends

The Local Government Association (LGA) has set out a six-point plan to protect vulnerable households who could lose their homes following the ending of the ban on bailiff evictions on May 31.

The National Housing Federation has meanwhile vowed that no one would be evicted from a housing association home as a result of financial hardship, “where they are working (or engaging) with their housing association to get their payments back on track”. It suggested that legal action would only be taken “in serious circumstances”.

The LGA said it recognised that the ban could not continue indefinitely but added that it remained concerned about families on the “cliff-edge” of becoming homeless.

It called for monitoring of the impact of the end of the ban, “ensuring councils have access to resources to support people to keep their tenancies, improving support through the welfare system in the short-term, and powers to acquire and build more affordable homes in the long-term”.

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The LGA’s six-point plan involves: 

  1. Bringing forward the Government’s pledge to end ‘no fault evictions’;
  2. Improved protection through the welfare system, including maintaining the £20 per week increase in Universal Credit, due to end in September 2021 and maintaining Local Housing Allowance rates at the lowest third of market rents;
  3. An immediate review of the impact of the overall benefits cap in the context of the pandemic;
  4. Ensuring that councils have enough resources to support households at risk of homelessness – “this includes restoration of local welfare funding to at least £250 million a year and a review of the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme, so that councils can continue to play a vital role in alleviating financial hardship”;
  5. Powers for councils to acquire empty homes, including making it easier to use Compulsory Purchase Order powers to buy properties and help move households on from temporary accommodation;
  6. Setting out plans to deliver a step-change in social housing – the LGA said it was calling for 100,000 social homes for rent to be delivered every year

Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson, said: “The Government was right to introduce the ban on evictions, and eviction enforcement, from the start of the pandemic. It gave vital reassurance to families who were at risk of losing their homes.

“We also understand that the ban cannot last indefinitely. However, lifting the ban will leave some households at the cliff-edge of becoming homeless. This is why it is essential we ensure there is a safety net of support in place to prevent this from happening.

“Our six-point plan would help ensure as many people as possible remain in their homes and go towards preventing homelessness from happening in the first place.”

The NHF meanwhile said that, “during the pandemic and beyond”, housing associations were committed to:

  1. Keeping people secure at home: “No one will be evicted from a housing association home as a result of financial hardship, where they are working (or engaging) with their housing association to get their payments back on track.”
  2. Helping people to get the support they need: “Housing associations are helping residents to access benefits and other support to alleviate financial hardship, including supporting people to get into work where possible.”
  3. Acting compassionately and quickly where people are struggling: “Housing associations will work with any resident who is struggling to pay rent to make arrangements that are manageable for them in the long term. Legal action will only be taken in serious circumstances – for example as a last resort where a resident will not agree a plan with their landlord to pay their rent, or where it is needed urgently in cases of domestic abuse or of antisocial behaviour that is putting other residents or communities at risk.”

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “Many people who have lost work and struggled to pay their rent during the pandemic are fearful of losing their homes when the ban on bailiffs comes to an end. The consequences of this crisis are far reaching and those worst affected could face financial hardship for years to come. 

“That is why housing associations have come together to make a permanent commitment to residents, that no one will be evicted from their home as a result of financial hardship as long as residents are engaging with their housing association on a plan to manage their rent if they fall into arrears.”

Henderson added: “The evictions process from social housing is very different to that in privately rented homes and evictions are only carried out as a very last resort and in serious cases. Housing associations are charitable landlords that exist to provide homes to people on low incomes and they want to work closely with residents who may be struggling financially.

"Residents who are worried about paying their rent or have fallen into arrears should be reassured that their landlord is there to support them."

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