Benefit freezes, soaring prices and the end of eviction bans are behind the sharpest rise in homelessness for centuries, the Big Issue’s founder said.
Lord John Bird gave the stark warning as Shelter figures indicate one in 17 private renting households have either been served with an eviction notice or were likely to receive one – a total of more than 275,000. The homelessness charity’s findings also show that 55,000 children and their families were evicted in the final three months of 2021. Some 14,000 landlords began court proceedings to evict tenants from their homes in the same period – an increase of 43 percent on the total in the previous quarter.
Shelter research also shows that almost half of renters (45 percent) are worried about becoming homeless due to the cost of living crisis.
Meanwhile, in nine out of 10 areas in England, Local Housing Allowance does not cover the cost of a modest two or three bedroom home.
Lord Bird said: “We have never had a period in modern history when so many people have been facing eviction, when so many are deprived of the means of properly feeding their families or heating their homes. We would have to go back centuries in history to see anything on this scale.”
The magazine founder’s bleak statement comes as Government measures to tackle homelessness in the pandemic unwind. Core homelessness – a concept covering the most acute forms – is estimated to have totalled 203,400 people in England in 2020, down five percent on 2019.
This was due primarily to the widely praised Everyone In initiative during the pandemic which saw rough sleepers housed in hotels and a ban on evictions, which ended last June.
In December, ministers announced a £316million homelessness prevention fund for councils for the next financial year to protect tens of thousands of people from homelessness, following a joint campaign by The Big Issue and the Sunday Express.
Lord Bird, who welcomed the Government grant at the time, now says it is unclear if the move has done much to solve the problem: “Councils were given grants to prevent Covid-related homelessness but where is that money? We cannot see it in the magistrates’ court rooms of Britain where increasing numbers of repossession orders are being made.”
He added: “We need to recognise that this is an emergency. Government says borrowing is the highest it has ever been due to Covid, but we need to borrow in order to help people come out of this.
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