Boroughs braced for ‘avalanche of evictions’ and ‘homelessness spike’

  • By JackGraves

London Councils is warning that the end of the government’s eviction ban – scheduled for 23 August – will lead to an avalanche of evictions and add to the acute pressures on the capital’s homelessness services.  

The cross-party group, which represents all 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation, highlights that the economic fall-out from Covid-19 means many thousands of Londoners are struggling to pay their rent and mortgages.

The capital already faces the most severe homelessness crisis in the country. London boroughs have played a pivotal role in securing emergency accommodation for more than 5,000 rough sleepers since the coronavirus outbreak, in addition to the 58,000 homeless London households placed in temporary accommodation (accounting for two-thirds of England’s total).

Prior to the pandemic, London Councils had declared that the boroughs’ annual £1 billion expenditure on homelessness and rough sleeping was unsustainable. London Councils calculates that boroughs will spend an extra £96 million on homelessness and rough sleeping this year due to Covid-19’s impact.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, said:

“The combination of massive job losses and the eviction ban coming to an end means we’re bracing ourselves for an avalanche of evictions in the coming weeks and months.

“This is set to be a horrendous time for many thousands of Londoners and boroughs will do everything we can to help our residents avoid homelessness.

“We’re very concerned about what this means for local support services, which are already extremely stretched and would struggle to cope with a spike in homelessness. There is enormous uncertainty over how boroughs are expected to keep funding this provision, as our homelessness spending is skyrocketing by an extra £96 million this year due to the pandemic.”

Boroughs fear that if thousands of Londoners are evicted in the coming months and turn to their local council for housing support, resources will be stretched yet further. The emergency funding provided by the government may not be enough to cover boroughs’ additional homelessness costs, prompting concern over the implications for service provision.

While social housing tenants often have access to support when they get into rent arrears, there is very limited help available for private tenants. Boroughs are aware that many Londoners in the private rental sector have been accruing arrears and are at particular risk of eviction. 

This week the charity Shelter stated that 227,000 private renters have fallen into rent arrears since the start of the pandemic, meaning they could lose their homes when the eviction ban is lifted. Recent research from the Mayor of London and YouGov suggests one-in-12 private renters in the capital have fallen behind on some or all their rent.

To avoid an increase in homelessness and to sustain London’s homelessness services, London Councils is calling for:

  • An immediate boost to local authority funding to meet the higher support needs of rough sleepers and ensure onward accommodation can be secured.
  • A twelve-month suspension of no recourse to public fund (NRPF) restrictions to unlock financial support for those who would otherwise return to rough sleeping. London Councils warns that at least 900 rough sleepers accommodated in London are subject to NRPF restrictions.
  • Further welfare policy changes to support homeless Londoners and those at risk of homelessness, including lifting the benefit cap and abolishing the local housing allowance shared accommodation rate for single applicants under 35.