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Evictions and Homelessness

Volume 697: debated on Monday 14 June 2021

What assessment he has made of the potential effect of ending the moratorium on evictions on levels of (a) evictions and (b) homelessness. (901077)

What assessment he has made of the potential effect of ending the moratorium on evictions on levels of (a) evictions and (b) homelessness. (901084)

Although the ban on bailiff enforcement has ended, the measures that the Government have introduced mean that fewer cases are progressing to eviction. Landlord possession claims were down by 74% in quarter 1 of this year compared with the same period in 2020, and the number of families in temporary accommodation is at its lowest since 2016. For those who need more support, we are providing councils with £310 million through the homelessness prevention grant—that is an uplift of £47 million on last year—which can be used for financial support for people to find a new home, to work with landlords to prevent evictions, or to provide temporary accommodation and ensure that families have a roof over their head.

Even before the effect of the end of the evictions ban, a quarter of all homeless households in London were being accommodated away from their home areas—away from their schools, their caring responsibilities, their jobs and their support networks. Previous Ministers have condemned that but done nothing to stop it. Will the Minister condemn it and state that homeless households should be accommodated near their support networks? What will he do to ensure that that happens?

It is important that these matters are handled by the councils themselves, because they are much closer to the problem than the Government; that is not something that we should or could legislate for centrally. With regard to the hon. Lady’s own council, we have allocated £5.2 million from the rough sleeping initiative and £6.8 million of homelessness prevention grant funding. The contribution that the Government are making to support local councils is very significant.

I thank the Minister for his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), but one of the key ways to prevent homelessness is to ensure that people are not being evicted. As a result of the end of the evictions ban, many Vauxhall residents now face eviction, with no need for justification and no requirement for adjudication. The Government said in 2019 that they wanted to bring an end to section 21 no-fault evictions, yet two years down the line, tenants in my constituency still face the constant threat of eviction. Will the Minister please tell the House when we can expect to see the long-awaited renters reform Bill?

We remain committed to delivering a better deal for renters, including repealing section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. We will legislate, but it is only right that that legislation considers the impact of the pandemic and is a balanced set of reforms that improves the private rented market. A White Paper detailing our package of reforms to the private rented sector will be brought forward in the autumn.

Today marks four years since the tragedy of Grenfell, where 72 people lost their lives. Recent research published by Shelter shows that 3.2 million private renters are fearful of complaining about unsafe and unhealthy properties for fear of being evicted, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that nearly a million tenants now fear eviction due to the ending of the evictions ban. The Secretary of State promised that no one would lose their home as a result of the covid crisis. How will he honour that promise, and when will no-fault section 21 evictions come to an end?

It is important to acknowledge the amount of funds that this Government have committed to ensuring that renters are supported—over £200 billion through the furlough scheme, for example. If hon. Members want evidence of whether that has been successful, let me point out that over nine out of 10 people are not in rent arrears at all, so that has been of significant help to people. With regard to the Bill that I referred to in my previous answer, I look forward to working with the hon. Gentleman, with whom I get on very well, in the coming months to ensure that we deliver renters reform that is appropriate and helpful to all parts of the sector.