Young renters call for increase in housing allowance to keep renters in their homes during pandemic
Toynbee Hall’s young renters research group spoke with renters and landlords prior to the ban on evictions being lifted on 21st September.
This week the ban on evictions was lifted and courts in England and Wales resumed eviction proceedings. In response to this, the young private renters research group spoke with fellow renters and landlords about what long term support is needed to keep renters in their homes during the crisis. This was as part of an ongoing peer-research project looking at how to make renting better for younger people in East London.
What emerged from these conversations was a clear need for greater long-term support. The welfare system needs to provide a more adequate safety net and show a greater understanding of the circumstances which private renters and landlords are facing if they wish to keep people in their homes and combat homelessness during the pandemic.
“We need the government to have foresight about how to support renters and landlords through the crisis. This looks like a proper increase to Universal Credit and bringing forward the Renters Reform Bill as a matter of urgency.”
The need to increase housing allowance to market rates
The researchers found through speaking to renters that Universal Credit cannot cover most people’s rent – in fact it only covers the bottom 30% of local market rents. The eviction ban has helped many stay in their homes, but we need Universal Credit to adequately cover local rents if we want to prevent evictions in the first place.
Small landlords that they spoke to depend on rental income to meet other commitments like mortgages; their finances are surprisingly precarious. Increasing housing allowance to market rates during the crisis would support landlords and renters while long term solutions are put in place.
Covering the rent after income loss is also causing renters huge stress and anxiety. Small landlords are also living with a fear of their finances collapsing. Stabilizing the rental market by increasing housing allowance would offer renters a stable platform to get through the crisis.
The researchers found too much discretion in advice issued by the Government’s advice to landlords that they take a “compassionate approach” to tenants affected by the crisis. Increasing housing allowance is a much more reliable way of helping renters to avoid homelessness but they also have found that letting agents need to be included in this, as it is actually often letting agents who broker between tenants and their landlord.
Here is what renters and landlords had to say about how they have been impacted by pandemic and what support is needed:
Take part in our new community research project ‘Pandemic Stories’
Toynbee Hall have launched a new peer action research project to understand how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting low income and other disproportionately affected households in London, including renters, disabled people and people from specific BAME communities. Toynbee Hall is working in collaboration with Thrive LDN, who is coordinating the public mental health response to COVID-19 in London on behalf of Public Health England.