Labour’s Opposition Spokesperson for Housing, Councillor Gill Williams, took a motion to Full Council last week to combat evictions which was carried with the Greens’ backing. Here, she says we must do all we can to increase security for renters in our city, and calls for an extension of the eviction ban, help with rent debt, and an end to discrimination against housing benefit claimants:
During this crisis, this council has prioritised helping the homeless and homelessness prevention. Yet despite these efforts there are more and more people at risk of homelessness. This is exacerbated significantly because the current government protections for private sector renters are woefully inadequate.
Brighton & Hove CAB (Citizens’ Advice Bureau) report that the ending of private rental tenancies is the leading cause of homelessness in this sector and rent arrears have become the third highest debt issue recorded amongst their clients. Many people are being furloughed or have lost their incomes altogether due to Covid-19 and the numbers are rising.
Along with ending s21 ‘no-fault’ evictions (as the Government has committed to but not yet delivered), there must be put in place an extension on the ban on evictions for at least 6 months. A cruel twist hidden in this present ban is the exception that means evictions can still take place if rent arears have been accrued during the last 6 months. So, effectively you can be evicted if you have lost your income due to Covid-19. As the Acorn campaign advocates, the effects of Covid-19 will doubtless be long-term, and many will fall into this category.
The CAB recommend an introduction of a grant to help renters who are in debt due to Covid-19; this, coupled with a longer eviction ban would go some way in securing tenancies in the longer-term.
Furthermore, we must tackle unlawful ‘no DSS’ policies which are openly practiced by some landlords and letting agents. This is even more crucial now as many more people are being forced to claim benefits. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone with a ‘protected’ characteristic – such as sex, disability or race. Women and people with a disability are disproportionately affected by ‘no DSS’ policies.
As documented by Shelter a recent legal action resulted in a letting agent admitting to indirect discrimination under the Equality Act. Acorn has exposed that such discrimination is being openly practiced in this city. We must as a council, champion equality rights in condemning this discrimination.
Over a third of our residents are private sector renters. We must support them, now and for the future.
Councillor Gill Williams
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