Protecting Wycombe’s Renters from Eviction

The Chair of Wycombe Labour, Alex Down, wrote to Steve Baker MP, urging him to do more to support the growing number of private tenants across the town who are facing eviction.

Many tenants across Wycombe are on their knees in the face of mounting rent debt. This is the time to offer them a helping hand, not kick them to the ground.

Dear Mr. Baker,

Re: Protecting Wycombe’s Renters from Eviction

I am writing to you to express my grave concerns about the inability of growing numbers of private tenants across Wycombe to meet their rent payments.

As you will be aware, the rate of unemployment rose to 4.9% in the three months to October 2020 and was estimated in November’s Spending Review to rise to 7.5% during the course of this year. Millions of people in the UK are out of work, with hundreds of thousands having been made redundant since March last year.

Wycombe has been hit particularly hard as evidenced by the huge surge in Universal Credit claimants since the Spring, many of whom are first time claimants, and the relentless demand for our local food banks.

I was therefore very relieved to see the government put in place an extension to the ban on evictions until 21 February 2021, despite the anxiety caused to many tenants by its decision to wait until the eleventh hour before making the announcement.

However, on closer inspection, I was extremely disappointed to see that these measures include a loophole which will allow landlords to start eviction proceedings where tenants have been unable to make their rent payments for six months which includes debt accrued since the start of the pandemic.

This makes a total mockery of the government’s ‘promise’ that no one will lose their home because of the pandemic. It is a cruel and punitive move that targets many of the most vulnerable people in society at a time when they are already on their knees.

I also find it deeply regretful that the safety net that should be in place to help these struggling tenants is not fit for purpose in its current guise. As noted by the Economic Affairs Committee in its report of July 2020, Universal Credit is broken and needs widescale reform, concluding that: “substantial problems with its design and implementation that have undermined the security and wellbeing of the poorest in our society”.

If people are forced out of their homes by the bailiffs, the virus will spread. Making people homeless during a global pandemic is not an acceptable outcome – no one should lose their home because of COVID-19. We must protect local residents from eviction and give them the opportunity to keep a roof over their heads as they seek to find gainful employment and begin to commence rent repayments once the vaccine is more widely distributed and the economy picks up.

In light of the above, I strongly urge you to join me (and the calls of many housing charities across the country) in demanding that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government extends the eviction ban to the end of March (like in Scotland and Wales) and removes this Machiavellian loophole.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Down Chair, Wycombe Labour CLP

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