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Private Renters: Covid-19

Housing, Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons on 15th June 2020.

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Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

What steps the Government are taking to protect private renters facing financial difficulties as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The Government have introduced measures to help tenants to continue to pay their rent; we are supporting workers by paying up to 80% of their wages; we have increased the amount available to welfare claimants; and we have raised the local housing allowance rate to the 30th percentile of market rents in each area.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

I thank the Minister for his response, but on the day that Marcus Rashford, a 22 year-old footballer, wrote to all of us in the House to raise the spectre of family impoverishment under coronavirus, does he recognise the fact that a substantial proportion of private renters have dependent children—they are not all bedsit-land stereotypes? Will he bring forward immediately the plans to end section-21 evictions? The Conservatives are the party of the family; if people are losing their jobs already, they should protect families and homes now.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I am obliged to the hon. Lady for her question. We have committed to bring forward legislation to enhance renters’ security, and that includes the abolition of section-21 evictions, but we will do it in a safe, sensible and sustained way. In the interim, the Government have worked with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements to ensure that courts are better able to address those tenants who are in difficult positions, and we have spent £7 billion of public money through the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that people can get the help that they need. We are working with the National Residential Landlords Association. It advises me that private rented sector rents have fallen by about 1% in the latest round of tenancy renewals. We are working hard across the space, particularly with the private rented sector, to make sure people get the help that they deserve.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Secretary of State for Housing

I associate myself with the remarks by hon. Members about the victims and survivors of Grenfell.

Today the Treasury Select Committee says that freelancers, new starters and many others have fallen through gaps in the financial support schemes. Local housing allowance does not even cover average rents. Anyone with no recourse to public funds cannot even get universal credit. Over a million people are struggling with rent, but this is fixable. Will the Government today heed the calls of Shelter, Citizens Advice, Generation Rent, numerous charities and building societies and the Labour party, act now and prevent people from losing their homes in an evictions crisis in the autumn?

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

As I have made clear, we have worked hard to protect tenants from the prospect of eviction and also to ensure that they have the funds to live their lives. That is why we introduced the furlough system, which provides 80% of people’s incomes. That is why we have increased the LHA. It is why we have made available to local authorities £500 million to help those households facing crisis. The prospectus of the hon. Lady, which is simply to kick the can down the road and to pile up costs for people who may not be able to afford them, is not the right one. I think she should go away and think again.