With winter approaching and fears that Britain is facing its worst winter homelessness crisis in 20 years, calls are being made for the government to help homeless people rent properties.
The founder of the Big Issue, John Bird, made the warning over the potential crisis, while calling for radical action to prevent the situation from worsening. According to data from the Department for Communities and Local Government, the number of people sleeping rough in England soared by 134% between 2010 and 2016, while the number of households in temporary accommodation rose by 60% in the same period. Local council cuts and less funding for homeless organisations are contributing factors. Mr Bird launched a bill in the House of Lords earlier this year, with the aim of helping millions of tenants or would-be renters secure better access to credit.
The National Landlord Association and Residential Landlords Association are supporting a campaign by Crisis for the government to set aside £31 million a year to help homeless people find rental accommodation through Help to Rent projects, as well as funding a national rent deposit guarantee scheme. The government, in turn, has said it is investing £550 million to address this issue, as well as implementing the Homeless Reduction Act.
The problem for people sleeping rough is twofold: they don’t have the funds to pay a deposit and rent in advance, and landlords often consider it is too risky to rent to them, even if they did have the money. The problem could worsen with the difficulties in rolling out universal credit. Only two in ten private landlords have said they would rent to people receiving housing benefit or universal credit. There are concerns that the housing element of universal credit is not enough for many tenants to cover their rent. A further problem is the six-week waiting period, which means tenants are about two months in arrears by the time they receive their first payment.
Crisis chief executive, Jon Sparkes, said homeless people are finding it harder to secure a private rental and that far too many are seeing their universal credit payments delayed, so they can’t pay their rents. This means landlords will start seeing them as risky tenants or they could even lose their homes, because they are falling into arrears.
For these reasons, and more, calls are being made for the government to fund Help to Rent projects, as well as to set up a national rent deposit guarantee scheme in the Autumn Budget, to help tenants find homes and keep up with payments, while also giving peace of mind to landlords. Help to Rent can provide support for tenants as well as helping homeless people overcome the financial problems they face when renting, such as finding a deposit, paying rent upfront and any fees involved.
They can help landlords by guaranteeing the rent is paid and eliminating the risks in letting to people on benefits. Both prospective tenants and landlords will reap the benefits if the government heeds the call from Crisis