Group of funders call for support for private tenants and people experiencing homelessness in the aftermath of COVID-19

Funders have come together to voice their shared concerns about the widespread impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having, and will continue to have, on people experiencing homelessness, those in precarious housing and private renters.

The Nationwide Foundation, Charity Bank, London Legal Support Trust,Lloyds Bank Foundation, OVO Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The Tudor Trust, Walton Charity on Thames, Wates Family Enterprise Trust, City Bridge Trust, World Habitat and Trust for London combined forces to write a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick MP, on 11 June 2020 calling for support.

The letter recognised actions by the government to protect renters and people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many challenges remain, some of which may serve to undermine government efforts so far. As partners in the voluntary sector, the group ask that additional action is taken to ensure that renters and those facing homelessness are sufficiently protected and that the government builds on the extraordinary strides made during the pandemic to end rough sleeping in the UK.

Signatories to the letter are all charitable funders of housing and homelessness interventions nationally. Over the last three years, they have collectively funded and provided social investment to services, research, innovations and improvements in UK housing and homelessness totalling over £110 million and are committed to supporting the sector for years to come. However, charitable funding can only do so much, and government action is needed to tackle many of the challenges seen through the work funded.

A range of third sector organisations, thinktanks and government colleagues have detailed and costed proposals in many of the areas listed. The funders encourage government to look at them in more depth. Specifically, the group are calling for the following key actions:

Grant the courts discretion to prevent evictions because of rent arrears

accrued as a result of the pandemic;

Bring forward Renters’ Reform legislation

so that no-fault evictions under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 are abolished as soon as possible;

Implement a temporary moratorium on rent increases in the private rented sector,

so that tenants hit financially by Covid-19 are not also impacted by rising housing costs;

Increase Local Housing Allowance

to the 50th percentile for at least 12 months so that renters who need it are supported to continue to pay their rent;

End the five-week wait

for Universal Credit;

Make changes to the benefit cap regime

so that tenants in high rent areas, who may now need government assistance for the first time, can benefit from that support;

Implement a 12-month suspension of ‘no recourse to public funds’ restrictions

to enable financial support for those who would otherwise return to rough sleeping;

Reinstate the duty court solicitor

for housing, benefits and debt cases, as well as funding courts, local Citizens Advice bureaux and community law centres to support the digitally excluded.

The group recognise that, through actions during this pandemic, that the government has taken seriously the challenges faced by private tenants and those experiencing homelessness. This said, they believe it is important to act now to avoid large increases in homelessness, financial hardship and indebtedness which, aside from their lasting consequences for people affected, could overwhelm local authorities and homelessness and advice services over the summer. As a group of funders, they stand ready to support and champion people experiencing homelessness, those in precarious housing and private renters and therefore would welcome government support.