Campaign urges protection from eviction to prevent ‘misery’ of homelessness

An alliance has been formed to protect renters from eviction and keep people in jobs and housing in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue magazine, launched the initiative with a warning that hundreds of thousands of people face the misery of homelessness without Government action.

Job creation and social house building should be at the cornerstone of the recovery, he said.

The so-called Ride Out Recession Alliance, supported by Shelter, Generation Rent, Unilever and the National Skills Agency, called on the Government to implement preventative measures, including keeping a ban on evictions until the law is changed to protect renters from losing their home due to coronavirus.

Ministers were also urged to launch a rescue package to stimulate the economy, including a new era of social home building.

The alliance is also seeking job training and Government-sponsored investment in companies to provide decent employment opportunities.

Lord Bird said it was imperative that the ban on evictions is extended beyond the end of August, while magistrates should be given the power to refuse to issue eviction notices involving anyone affected by Covid-19.

He told the PA news agency: “This is about making sure we don’t condemn hundreds of thousands of people to homelessness.

“We have to support the Government in carrying out its historic task to keep people in work and in their homes.

“This will be a cost-saving exercise, because it is far more expensive to deal with homelessness than working to prevent it.

“The Government has to invest in businesses so they can keep people in work and create the many jobs we need in the NHS, education, environment and new technology.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “We want to end homelessness for good. So we’re pleased to be working with The Big Issue to stop people losing their homes due to coronavirus now, and to build the case for the next generation of social housing.

“Decades of failure to build the social homes we need has led to increases in homelessness and too many people living in unsafe accommodation. This includes many heroes of the pandemic who worked tirelessly to keep this country going.

“But now we have an opportunity for change. We must seize it – and build the quality homes needed for everyone to be safe and secure.”

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “To solve homelessness, we need immediate relief for people struggling from the impact of coronavirus and reform of the whole system in the longer term.”

Alan Jope, Unilever’s chief executive, said: “Anything that tackles the inter-related scourges of unemployment, homelessness and chronic inequality is something that we support and agree profoundly with.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “The Government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic, ensuring that no-one has been forced from their home this summer as a result of the pandemic and providing financial support.

“We’re working to provide appropriate support to those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus when proceedings start again.

“We’ve worked closely with the judiciary, advice sector and stakeholders to ensure landlords are providing more relevant information relating to their tenants’ situation, allowing courts to provide appropriate protection of all parties.”