Protests press government to end sticking-plaster approach to rent crisis

Following the weekend’s panicked, last minute government U-turn on allowing a mass wave of evictions renters’ unions are pushing the government to offer “more than a broken umbrella in a torrential downpour” with protests yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Despite significant criticism and warnings that revoking the hold on proceedings would cause an immediate massive housing crisis Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick waited until just a day before his own deadline to announce a temporary reprieve until September 20th. Secondary measures will see landlords required to give six months’ notice until March next year unless a serious issue such as domestic violence is proven.

The weekend started with actions from Acorn in 17 towns and cities, with demands that Westminster follow the example of Scotland and extend the full ban until March rather than continuing to leave renters living in fear.

The group stated:

Despite yesterday’s announcement that the eviction ban will be extended until September 20th, this is not enough. Landlords can still hold section 21s over tenants heads. Tenants are still in debt and struggling to pay the rent. We are still going to see a wave of evictions when the ban lifts.

ACORN demands that the extension is followed by serious legislation to protect renters from homelessness and rent debt in the fall out of COVID-19. We need rent debt accrued as a result of COVID wiped and an immediate end to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.

The action was followed up today by a rally at the Royal Courts of Justice building on the Strand in London by the Social Housing Action Campaign, which notes on the housing association sector particularly:

There is no excuse for housing associations to initiate evictions on the basis of inability to pay. The sector is in excellent financial health. Operating margins were at 25% on social housing lettings alone, and operating surpluses stood at around £4.7 billion. Across the sector, rent collection rates were 99.9%.

For financially wealthy housing associations, SHAC demands rent & service charge waivers rents for those struggling financiall due to C19.

If resources become tight, recognising the position of coops and smaller associations, we called on government to underwrite housing associations’ debt, as they did for the banks.

And tomorrow two groups, the London Renters’ Union and Radical Housing Network, will be running a series of protests at the Royal Courts of Justice (WC2A 2LL) from 9.30am-10.20am, alongside various other county courts round London. RCN said:

We have put this callous corrupt government under enough pressure to get this four-week extension. But the extension isn’t going to prevent the thousands of evictions, and homelessness. They need to extend until tenants have greater security and offer an arrears write-off. They bailed out the banks so there’s no reason why they can’t protect renters. Keep the pressure on.