Posted: 2 June 2021 1:53 pm.
With the ban on evictions having come to an end, many are predicting a huge tidal wave of people becoming newly homeless.
Until 31st May, due to the hardship faced by many as a result of the pandemic, bailiffs were prevented by law from enforcing evictions against people with arrears. Both social and private landlords have been able to serve eviction notices but not act upon them due to the ban.
Now that the ban has come to an end, and with the furlough scheme set to wind down in September, sadly we need to prepare ourselves for significant increases in people losing their homes.
Last week the National Housing Federation announced that housing associations have pledged not to evict tenants facing severe financial hardship, as long as they engage and work with them to get their payments back on track.long with this commitment, housing associations will help tenants get the support they need to access relevant benefits, get into work and will act compassionately when people are facing financial hardship and only pursue legal action as a last resort.
Of course, I welcome that news and I know it will be a relief to thousands of people who had got into rent arrears, perhaps for the first time in their lives, through no fault of their own.
However, this protection does not extend to private landlords and tenants, and that’s where we could see a huge problem.
Private renting lacks regulation, and even before the pandemic tenants faced insecurity, the threat of unfair eviction and unsustainably high rents.
According to Shelter there are currently more than 250,000 people who are homeless. Not just rough sleeping, but stuck in temporary accommodation, such as hostels and bed and breakfasts. They have declared a housing emergency.
In total, 17.5 million people are impacted by the housing emergency – living in overcrowded, dangerous, unstable or unaffordable housing.
Those numbers are devastating. The impact of homelessness, even if not rough sleeping, is massive.
Imagine living with your family in a very poor-quality bed and breakfast, in overcrowded conditions and with limited, if any, cooking facilities to feed yourself and your children healthily.
Imagine having to leave the accommodation during the day in all weathers, having no access to Wi-Fi to enable you to search for a job, apply for the benefits you’re entitled to or allow your children to do their homework.
Imagine the impact on your mental health.
In Greater Manchester, Mayor Andy Burnham has made ending homelessness a key priority. He has introduced many successful Greater Manchester partnership initiatives such as the A Bed Every Night programme, the social impact bond for entrenched rough sleepers, Housing First and the GM Ethical Lettings Agency.
We’ve welcomed the continued political commitment of the Mayor, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Local Authorities to end rough sleeping and homelessness – this needs to be backed by central Government as well.
We need the resources to provide the accommodation and the wrap-around support necessary.
During the pandemic the response has been unprecedented.
Last year the Everyone In initiative saw approximately 15,000 people who were sleeping rough, in unsafe communal settings or at imminent risk of rough sleeping being given emergency accommodation.
After that, the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) provided the financial resources needed to support councils and their partners to prevent these people from returning to the streets.
We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to address some of the core challenges around homelessness and rough sleeping for good. We’ve engaged with some of the most entrenched rough sleepers and hard to reach groups over the last year.
It’s now vital that support and resources remain in place so we can continue to support the people we’ve been working with and ensure they can move on to more stable, permanent accommodation, but also to catch those who may be facing homelessness for the first time because of the pandemic and end of furlough.
The last year has seen partnership working on an unprecedented scale. This must be a legacy of lockdown. We know we can find better solutions when we work together.
Nationally, we saw the public and voluntary sectors working together to accommodate and engage with over 95% of rough sleepers.
Key stakeholders, such as councils, commissioners, housing associations and charitable organisations must commit to long-term partnership working to develop and deliver innovative solutions and projects to both prevent and resolve homelessness.
In Greater Manchester, Stepping Stones has been at the centre of this.
At Stepping Stone Projects (SSP), we have seen first-hand the benefits of these partnerships. We reached out to many local authorities and commissioners to see how we could work together and do more at a time of real national crisis.
Through collaboration – and an understanding of shared values – we were able to act very quickly and were innovative in our approaches to provide solutions to the issues being faced.
Prior to COVID-19, SSP provided about 260 self-contained furnished supported homes benefiting around 800 homeless and vulnerable people each year.
In the past year we have added 125 more homes providing accommodation and support to a further 250 rough sleepers and homeless people.
The total cost to local authorities of providing this additional supported accommodation has been roughly £400,000 – with much of this coming from homelessness and COVID-19 grants. This represents very good value for money compared to the costs of people being accommodated in often unsuitable temporary accommodation – or worse still, on the streets.
This has only been possible with support from our partners.
We may now be on the road out of the pandemic, but we should still be treating homelessness as the emergency that it is and ensuring that the steps we take out of the restrictions do not mean pushing people into hardship and homelessness.