Leader's column: Scourge of homelessness

In her latest column for us, Tameside Council leader Cllr Brenda Warrington says the absence of further protection from evictions has "very real public health consequences" and discusses the council's plans to prevent homelessness locally.

With the introduction of further lockdown measures across the country, it is clear that we are entering a critical phase in the struggle to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

However this only makes the absence of further protection from evictions, especially in the private rented sector, an even more glaring oversight.

Back in March when the lockdown began the government introduced a ban on landlords evicting tenants. This protection expired on September 21, and there is no indication that the measures will be further extended. 

Research by Shelter estimates that more than 300,000 private renters have already fallen into arrears as a result of the pandemic.

This is not just a housing emergency, it has very real public health consequences as well. People forced into overcrowded temporary or emergency accommodation are more likely to be unable to follow social distancing or self-isolation guidelines, and may even be unable to carry out basic hygiene measures. 

Poor quality and overcrowded housing is also a key factor in vulnerability to infection, with groups like ethnic minorities, young people and migrant workers particularly at risk.

Unless the government takes action to extend the evictions ban we face the risk of creating, at the worst possible time, a disaster in both homelessness and infections.

In Tameside, our Homelessness Service has done incredible work in the past few years in helping the homeless or those at risk of homelessness. 

However, the coronavirus pandemic has shown that we need to do more. 

We intend to push forward with our plans to introduce a Selective Licensing Scheme for the private rented sector. This will include working closely with landlords to prevent evictions arising from coronavirus-related arrears, while simultaneously helping tenants come up with a repayment plan to make good on the debt within two years. 

Landlords who take part in the scheme will also be able to access funding from the government’s Green Homes Grant to improve the quality and energy efficiency of their housing stock.

The scourge of homelessness is not something that any developed country should accept even at the best of times. At a time where our public health is also at stake, it is utterly unforgivable.

We are one of the richest nations in the world. It’s time we started acting like it. I want to see no stone left unturned, locally and nationally, for those who need our help the most.

Weather

  • Sat

    13°C

  • Sun

    15°C

  • Mon

    9°C

  • Tue

    8°C

  • Wed

    8°C