Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me about the UK’s rent, evictions and homelessness crisis. I apologise for the delay in responding to your email. As you can imagine, I have received a huge increase in casework as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
First of all, I am sure we can agree that the government has let everyone down by failing to develop a coherent strategy to meet housing need. Inner London has been hardest hit by the huge rise in rents and property prices, and by the acute shortage of genuinely affordable homes. Renting costs in Islington are very high, and the price of buying a home in the borough is astronomical in comparison with constituents’ wages.
Over the past year, rough sleepers have had to contend with not only being homeless, but being homeless during a pandemic. I welcomed the government’s Everyone In scheme during the first national lockdown, which is thought to have saved the lives of hundreds of rough sleepers. It is extremely disappointing that the government decided not to extend the scheme during the second and third national lockdowns, despite calls for them to do so by homelessness charities such as Crisis and Shelter.
Renters who have fallen on hard times during the pandemic have welcomed the government’s ban on evictions – I understand that this ban has now been extended until 31st May. With that said, far too often the government have been slow to act in the interests of renters, failing to extend the evictions ban until the very last second and causing undue stress to many families on the brink of losing their homes during a pandemic.
I agree with Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Thangam Debbonaire, when she said:
“Loopholes mean that hundreds have already been evicted during lockdown. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as tens of thousands have been made homeless during the pandemic.
“The government should strengthen the ban on evictions, and protect family finances by dealing with rent arrears and lost income, to keep their promise that nobody will lose their home because of Coronavirus.”
In the recent Budget, the Chancellor spoke of turning “generation rent into generation buy”, with announcements on 5% mortgages and a Stamp Duty Holiday extension. But as many have pointed out, he made no mention of any direct support for the over 840,000 renters who are now in rent arrears as a result of the pandemic.
Although the Tories pledged in their 2019 manifesto to implement “a better deal for renters”, I think that this just goes to show how very unlikely it is that such a deal will come to fruition. In our 2019 Manifesto, the Labour Party committed to tackling the root causes of rising homelessness, with more affordable housing and stronger renters’ rights.
If you are worried about someone who is sleeping on the streets in Islington South and Finsbury, you should contact Streetlink immediately, which you can do by clicking on the following link: https://www.streetlink.london/Streetlink_London_HomePage
If you have any specific concerns about your housing situation or the housing situation of a loved one, I would encourage you to get in touch with me and I will do what I can do help.
I hope that this information is useful, and that you and your family are keeping safe and well. Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade