Protestors have staged a ‘mock eviction hearing’ for the Housing secretary as part of protests against the end of the eviction ban and a lack of support for tenants throughout the pandemic.
The eviction ban in England came to an end yesterday, despite warnings from experts and charities that there are hundreds of thousands of people at risk of eviction and homelessness.
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Activists from Momentum, a left-wing campaign group affiliated with the Labour party, staged a protest outside the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government today, as the government’s eviction ban came to an end.
There were also protests held in Portsmouth, Southend, Hammersmith and Shipley.
The protests are part of Momentum’s Eviction Resistance campaign, with the organisation demanding an end to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, an extension of the eviction ban and the cancellation of all pandemic rent debt.
The demonstrations were backed by former Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who said: “Even before the crisis, tenants were being crushed between high rents and low wages. The Covid crisis has only made the situation worse.
“Meanwhile, UK billionaires have increased their wealth by more than 237 million pounds a day since the pandemic began.
“Enough is enough - we have to defend working people against the greed of the mega landlords. We need transformative solutions, like banning no fault evictions and cancelling all pandemic rent debt."
Renters three times more likely to be in arrears than homeowners
Almost a million people in England fear being evicted in the coming months, while around 400,000 have already been served notices or told they will be evicted, according to polling carried out on behalf of the JRF think tank.
New research carried out by YouGov on behalf of JRF found that more than 1.5 million renters are concerned about paying their rent over the next three months.
Campaigners say it is unfair that this form of support is being withdrawn for renters while support measures for homeowners such as the Stamp Duty holiday are still in place, even though renters are struggling more.
Research shows that, compared with homeowners, renters are three times more likely to be in arrears with housing costs or bills, as well as twice as likely to be worried about housing costs and potentially losing their homes.
Leading housing lawyer and QC David Renton said: “Under the lockdown, hundreds of thousands of tenants have been threatened with evictions by their landlord. So far, fortunately, the number actually evicted remains much less.
He added: “My worry is that with the eviction ban going, these threats will turn into reality.”
Momentum is also campaigning for a housing motion at the Labour party conference which, if passed, would commit Labour to building 100,000 council houses a year and give councils the power to requisition long-term empty homes and put them to use to solve the housing crisis.
The motion would also commit Labour to implementing a national housing system to house all those experiencing homelessness, regardless of immigration status.
‘Unprecedented action to support renters’
A Government spokesperson said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken unprecedented action to support renters and help keep them in their homes including introducing a comprehensive £352 billion support package, which has prevented widespread build-up of rent arrears.
“Thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, national restrictions are gradually being eased and it’s now the right time to start to lift the emergency measures we put in place.
“Tenants will continue to be supported with longer notice periods and financial help is still available such as the furlough scheme, which has been extended until the end of September. Evictions will not be carried out if a member of the home has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.”