Half a million households facing homelessness in wake of Covid-19 pandemic, ministers warned
The District Council Network represents 187 councils (PA)
Ministers must put housing "at the centre" of the coronavirus lockdown exit strategy to avoid a spike in homelessness, council have warned.
The analysis by the District Councils’ Network (DCN), which represents 187 councils, reveals that half a million households are currently at risk.
It comes as the Government considers how best to ease the nationwide lockdown, with the Boris Johnson set to outline changes in a TV address on Sunday.
On Monday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed he was considering how to wind down the furlough scheme from July, which is currently contributing to the wages of 6.3 million employees.
But the new report warns that a drop in employment support, the ongoing housing crisis, and an end to the current freeze on evictions could hit vulnerable families.
Around 486,000 households pay over half of all their income on private rented housing, according to the DCN's analysis.
Among those most at risk are single-parent families, young people, and low-wage key workers included those in the health, food and logistic sectors.
DCN spokesperson Giles Archibald said: “We have grave concerns that the huge impact on jobs and incomes could send many of these half a million families over the edge and into homelessness in the coming months, particularly those struggling to pay their rent in the private rented sector.
“Councils, landlords, charities and other partners are all working hard now to avoid people becoming homeless, however, we are in unprecedented times and have grave concerns for the months ahead.
“The Government has already rightly acted to support businesses and residents, but to avert a huge rise in homelessness it must now put the housing crisis at the centre of its exit strategy and recovery effort to support people as the scale of the economic impact becomes clearer.”
Measures recommended by the councils' group include increasing housing benefit for private renters and additional funding for local authorities.
The report also calls for a “renaissance of council house building” and changes to current financial incentives for businesses to ensure a supply of homes and jobs.
CAN'T LET THIS HAPPEN
Charities also backed the DCN's calls to prioritise housing, with Sara Willcocks, Head of Communications at Turn2us, adding:
"Many low paid people who struggle with their rent are the very same workers who we are all relying on right now to keep our supermarkets and hospitals open.
"These are also the same people that are worried their landlord will simply chuck them out the door when the eviction ban ends. We can't let this happen."
"The government can only fix this issue by solving the larger housing crisis. They need to build more social housing, stop poverty wages and increase Local Housing Allowance rates so that Housing Benefit covers the actual cost of rent."
Meanwhile, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter said: “Even before the pandemic we were in the middle of a housing emergency with hundreds of thousands of people with nowhere to call home.
"The fact that this could now get even worse is a terrifying prospect."
She added: "To stave off a sharp rise in homelessness once the emergency eviction ban lifts in June, we need swift action from the government to raise the housing element of Universal Credit now so that it can cover average rents and help people keep a roof over their heads.”
Responding to the report, a Government spokesperson said: “We’re committed to supporting all those affected by Covid-19 through these unprecedented times and we’ve implemented an enormous package of measures to do so."
“We’ve injected more than £6.5 billion into the welfare system, including helping over one million households by raising Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants. And we’ve increased protections for renters to prevent evictions due to difficulties caused by Covid-19."