Concern over tenants’ rights as Government’s protection against evictions comes to an end

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

Greenwich’s senior councillor for housing has expressed concerns that residents will be made homeless in the face of an oncoming coronavirus wave, after the Government protections preventing tenants from being evicted during the pandemic expired.

Cllr Anthony Okereke, who was earlier this year named Greenwich’s cabinet member for housing, also said the Government had not gone far enough with supporting local authorities on the front line of providing housing for vulnerable members of the community.

Commenting after the Government rolled back its eviction ban on Sunday, Cllr Okereke said “support for renters has been minimal” during the pandemic.

He said: “Much of the Government support that has been announced in recent months, from mortgage holidays to stamp duty cuts, has benefited landlords and homeowners – support for renters has been minimal.

“Many renters already face paying up to three quarters of their monthly incomes just to pay their rent, let alone pay off their arrears.”

“With another wave of the pandemic approaching, many renters will struggle to find suitable and affordable accommodation due to the lack of support.

Cllr Okereke said the authority could not estimate how many of the borough’s residents would be impacted by the changes at this stage, but it was something the council would be monitoring.

It comes after a ban on eviction hearings put in place by Boris Johnson during the pandemic expired over the weekend.

A survey by homeless shelter Charity released earlier this year showed 230,000 tenants in England have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said ahead of the ban expiring that evictions would not be enforced by bailiffs if a local area was in a lockdown that included restrictions on gathering in homes.

Cllr Okereke urged any residents who were not clear over their eviction rights to contact the council.

He said: “We do not want any residents to feel pressured to move and they should first and foremost contact the council or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, so that they are able to feel informed and empowered during this difficult time.”

He also called on the Government to extend the eviction ban, financially support renters in arrears due to the pandemic, and work closer with councils to prevent people at risk of homelessness and rough sleeping.

“I don’t believe the support the council receives from the Government is sufficient. Housing benefits simply do not cover the cost of renting, and people are missed as some will report to us as homeless,” he said.

Anyone facing eviction and in need of support is asked to contact the council on 0208 921 2863 or by emailing housing-inclusion@royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

Pictured top: Cllr Anthony Okereke


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