Campaign launched to prevent ‘avalanche’ of homelessness

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Calls to prevent a surge in homelessness this autumn are being stepped up after research suggested evictions and repossessions continued throughout the lockdown.

The Big Issue warned of a potential “four-pronged attack” on the public in coming months, with an end to the Universal Credit uplift and the furlough scheme, an increase in evictions and repossessions and a predicted increase in the cost of electricity and gas.

A study by the magazine of official figures found that in the first quarter of 2021, there were 632 mortgage repossessions and rental evictions across the UK.

The Big Issue has called for measures to prevent an “avalanche” of homelessness, including a system of means-tested grants or interest-free-loans to repay arrears and suspending no-fault evictions until a Renters’ Reform Act.

Alarm bells

John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, said: “Millions of people in this country are behind in household bills, half a million are in rent arrears and nearly 200,000 homeowners are in financial difficulty.

“More people are at risk of homelessness now than at any time in living memory. Against a background of 1.9 million jobs at risk of permanent loss from the pandemic, this should be ringing alarm bells throughout the country.

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“The Government was quick to support us when they put over 37,000 homeless people into accommodation in the first lockdown. We need a similar urgent approach to prevent an avalanche of homelessness this autumn.

“We need the public to start getting involved urgently by pressuring the Government and local politicians to take this looming crisis seriously. The scale and potential impact of this crisis affects everyone in the UK.”

Long-term support is needed

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “The number of private renters getting Universal Credit has doubled since the start of the pandemic, and the level of support it provides is not enough to cover the rent. That means people getting behind on rent and at risk of eviction.

“Even if their income recovers, it will be impossible to pay off all this debt while staying on top of other bills.

“The Government must step in and clear this rent debt and let renters get on with their lives. Otherwise society will pay a higher price through a homelessness crisis.”

Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at Centrepoint, said: “Throughout the pandemic many people found themselves in rent arrears through no fault of their own.

“Government interventions like covering arrears with grants and keeping the £20 Universal Credit uplift were essential in preventing homelessness at an even greater scale than we saw, particularly during the first few months of Covid-19.

“With lockdown being lifted it’s easy to think the economic consequences of coronavirus will disappear too. Unfortunately that is not the case and that is why this campaign for substantial long-term support for tenants at risk of eviction because of arrears is so important.”

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