Homes for All Evictions Letter

Dear Members/SupportersPlease see attached Evictions letter that Homes for All discussed at the last H4A meeting.  We would very much like your support to demand an extended ban on evictions and to write off arrears accrued due to Covid-19 pandemic until the end of March 2022 and for Central government to develop an emergency financial package for tenants and landlords to stop evictions.
If you support these demands please can you sign the letter here with your name, title and organisation:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1t7g_lIvB9cFZfV8fiUKezmFQxma85siNmZXynECSoSU/edit
Or reply to this email with your name, title and organisation and we will add it to the letter.

Thanking you and solidarity,
Homes for All. 

Household Financial Crunch Data – A glimpse

Striking Numbers

£2,300 Average increase in debt and arrears since March 2020 among those who have fallen behind on bills or borrowed for essentials.

-22.4% Change in outstanding credit card balances in year to January 2021.

360,000 Increase in unemployment in the year to January 2021.

6.8% Increase in average first-time buyer house price in the year to January 2021.Every Day in the UK

£25 billion Amount of arrears and debt accumulated by 11.1 million households since March 2020 due to the financial pressures of the pandemic.

460,000 Number of private sector renters who were behind on their rent in January 2021, up from 230,000 in May 2020.

2.3 million Number of people falling behind on their broadband bill in November 2020.

7 in 10 Proportion of Universal Credit claimants seeking advice from Citizens Advice who have not previously made a benefits claim.

Personal Debt in the UK

People in the UK owed £1,700.2 billion at the end of January 2021.

The average total debt per household, including mortgages, was £60,999 and per adult was £32,087, around 107.6% of average earnings.

Net mortgage lending rose by £5.17 billion in the month, while net consumer credit lending fell by £2.79 billion.

Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales answered380,283 enquiries in February 2021, 9.5% down from February 2020.Mortgages, Rent & Housing

Outstanding mortgage lending stood at £1,501 billion at the end of January 2021.

The average mortgage interest rate was 2.09% at the end of January 2021. Based on this, households with mortgages would pay an average of £2,854 in mortgage interest over the year.

HM Land Registry reports that the average house price for first-time buyers in Great Britain was £208,336 in January 2021, an annual increase of 6.8% and a monthly change of -0.6%.

According to the Office for National Statistics, private rental prices in the UK rose by 1.4% in the 12 months to February 2021.
(All the above data brought to you by Money Advice Charity)

Response from Housing Lead on Southampton City Council

This is a quick response from Housing lead on Southampton City Council – 

she will be responding more fully – action on evictions:

  • Suspended all debt recovery during lockdown 1 when there was so much uncertainty around Government support and delays to UC.
  • We are contacting all our tenants to ensure those entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments are getting DHP, along with support with benefits to make sure they are claiming for everything they should be.
  • We have set up a citywide joint working group with frontline services, including local charities and advice services, to make sure no one is falling through the gaps. If a group are, we are working on what we can do together to try and mitigate impact for them.
  • Any debt policy is being co-design with local charities and advice services.
  • We are taking a more bespoke approach to debt and people’s needs, looking at an individual and what support they may need holistically (broader than just debt they may owe).  
  • Rather than just letters, which can get confusing and scare people, based on advice from local charities, we have also increased use of phone, email and additional stages in the process to allow more time for the individual to get back on track.
  • As well as continuing to negotiate payment arrangements, we have also increased our use of alternative payment arrangements to support tenants.
  • We have set up an Arrears Review Panel, to ensure there are far more checks and balances and offer to support, before taking any further action.

No DSS: Landmark Court ruling declares housing benefit discrimination is unlawful

Right now, hundreds of thousands of renters are facing discrimination when looking for a home. They’re being locked out of properties they could otherwise afford – simply because they receive housing benefit.   

For a long time, letting agents and landlords have been putting in place so-called ‘no DSS’, ‘no benefits’, or ‘no Universal Credit’ policies to prevent renters who receive housing benefit from accessing homes.   

But today we have received official confirmation of a landmark court ruling declaring housing benefit discrimination unlawful, marking a huge breakthrough for our End DSS Discrimination campaign.  

An historic hearing 

Housing benefit discrimination has been confirmed as unlawful in a landmark court ruling. 

At the historic hearing at York County Court involving Shelter client Jane*, ‘no DSS’ discrimination was declared unlawful, meaning letting agents and private landlords will have to drive out old discriminatory practices for good.  

District Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark confirmed that rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit is unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability, and contrary to sections 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010.  

Discrimination and the Equality Act  

Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful to indirectly discriminate based on things like gender, disability or race. ‘No DSS’, ‘no benefits’ or ‘no Universal Credit’ policies breach the act via indirect discrimination, as they disproportionately harm women and disabled people, who are more likely to receive housing benefit.   

This court ruling has confirmed what we have been arguing – that anyone who seeks to exclude renters receiving housing benefit is not just acting unjustly, but unlawfully too. 

A win in the courts  

This is the first time that a UK court has fully considered a case like this.  

Shelter has been fighting to end DSS discrimination for nearly two years, and we have been involved in several other ‘no DSS’ cases. These all settled at an early stage, with each letting agent agreeing to change their practices and offering apologies and compensation to our clients.  

We’ve been pleased to see the changes that these individual letting agents have made, but to bring about widespread change across the private rented sector – and be able to help others who have experienced housing benefit discrimination in the future – we wanted a judge to make a formal ruling on a case.  

That’s the difference with Jane’s* case. It’s the first time a UK court has declared it unlawful to discriminate against someone because they receive housing benefit.  

Jane’s experience  

Jane turned to Shelter for help when a letting agent refused to rent any properties to her because of a company policy not to accept tenants receiving housing benefit.  

Jane is a hard-working single mum who lives with a disability. She had rented privately for 10 years, always paying her rent in full and on time, and has great references from her former landlords. She was able to pay her deposit and rent in advance due to her parents lending her money, which she was able to pay back to them – and she had a guarantor.  

When her landlord served her with a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice, she needed to find a new home. She saw a suitable, affordable property and applied to rent it,  but the letting agents refused to consider her application – telling her that ‘for years’ they ‘have had a policy of not accepting housing benefit tenants’. She and her children were left homeless as a result. Jane told us:

I hope I’ll have helped people who aren’t able to be as determined as me. I’m like a dog with a bone. It’s the principle. It’s completely unfair to treat people like this, and I hope this will prove that letting agents can’t do this and prove they can’t discriminate.

Widespread change 

This landmark ruling will make a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of private renters across the country like Jane, who receive housing benefit and have been facing discrimination when looking for a home. 

We know the ‘no DSS’, ‘no benefits’ and ‘no Universal Credit’ policies are widespread, and that what Jane experienced is not a one-off occurrence. A 2020 YouGov survey found that 63% of private landlords either operate an outright ban on letting to tenants receiving housing benefit or say they prefer not to let to this group. 

But this ruling means that letting agents and private landlords will have to drive out old discriminatory practices for good, so that renters who receive housing benefit are no longer barred from renting any privately rented properties. 

We’ve seen how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to huge financial hardship, with hundreds of thousands of people losing work and urgently in need of support – including housing benefit – to help them pay their rent.  

Given the huge rise in the numbers of people receiving housing benefit due to the pandemic, we’re concerned that many more renters will be coming up against DSS discrimination.  

So, this ruling could not have come at a better time. It will make a huge difference to the lives of many private renters who are relying on housing benefit to keep their head above water.   

What happens next?  

Finally, we have formal clarification that DSS discrimination is unlawful. This win is what we need to end it for good.

Now that  it has been proven in the courts, we’ll be doubling up our efforts to end housing benefit discrimination for good – and make sure letting agents are complying with the ruling.  

Next General Meeting Saturday 27th March

H4A zoom meeting Saturday 27th March at 11am

Topic: Homes 4 All General Meeting – followed by Filling Empty Homes
Organising Meeting

Time: Mar 27, 2021 11:00 AM London

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82147506061

Meeting ID: 821 4750 6061

Agenda

The recent H4A summit debated inequalities in housing, health & wealth
and a government that has failed to offer any long-term solutions during
and beyond the Covid crisis. The Mayoral and local elections are looming
and we have an opportunity to make housing a key issue. We will  be
discussing:

Update from workshops & proposed activities over coming weeks
Action around Mayoral/local elections
Steering Group – need more volunteers
Empty Homes Day of Action 17th April – stay on zoom to join meeting
AOB

‘Empty Homes Day of Action’- Saturday April 17th 2021

We are joining with Action on Empty Homes for an ‘Empty Homes Day of Action’ on Saturday April 17th 2021 Join us!

Rally 11am to 12pm, Saturday 17th April

Online rally with national speakers 11am – 12noon
John Bird Founder Big Issue, Steve Turner Assistant General Secretary Unite Will McMahon, Action on Empty Homes, Tanya Murat, Homes For All, Jon Glackin, Streets Kitchen, Ellen Clifford Author, Disabled People Against Cuts, Moyra Samuels Grenfell Campaigner, Tyrone Scott Shelter, Hannah Berry Greater Manchester Housing Action

Online Rally Facebook Event here

Local Photoshoots and events on Saturday 17th April – ALL WELCOME!

  1. Empty Homes Photoshoot at Manor Place Depot, Southwark SE17 Facebook Event here

2. Islington Homes for All Photoshoot at Breakout Café then Roman Way 10:45am

Other events taking place on the day include Newham, Harlow, Rochdale, Haringey. Check here for updates.

The Day of Action on 17th April aims to raise public awareness of the rising number of long-term empty homes and homes without a permanent resident in England.

Government and market data show there are around: 

  • 270,000 long-term empty homes
  • 260,000 second-homes without no permanent resident
  • 120,000 Airbnb type short-lets (London Councils estimate there are 80,000 short-lets in London alone)

We are calling this Day of Action for three reasons: 

  1. The pandemic has highlighted the health impacts of Temporary Accommodation and overcrowding – it has created a health emergency.
  2. The wrong kind of housing is being built in metropolitan areas. 
  3. Building the wrong kind of housing has created a crisis of affordability.

What will happen on the Day of Action?

  1. Campaigners will be staging photoshoots using campaign banners and placards outside new developments that do not contain any social housing, decanted council homes, housing association empty homes and older large residential properties that are long term empty.
  2. We will be live streaming a rally at 11am to 12pm, Saturday 17th April on multiple platforms including https://www.facebook.com/emptyhomes/ YouTube Action on Empty Homes YouTube Homes4ALLUK  https://www.facebook.com/Homes4AllUK    The online ‘rally’ will feature live streams from the local photoshoots as well as local and national speakers in the ‘studio’
  3. We will gather all the photoshoots and put them on our national websites and issue both local and national press releases for publicity purposes and demonstrate the breadth of support for the Day of Action. We aim to build a national picture of the problem.

How you can get involved

1. Organise your own local photoshoot or selfie for the Day of Action. Send your photos to info@emptyhomes.com  See below a step by step guide to organising your local event.

2. Order some of Day of Action posters for your photoshoot from Will at Action on Empty Homes – make a £10 donation to Action on Empty Homes to help us cover our costs – they will be available on Monday 22 March.

To order posters: E-mail info@emptyhomes.com

The posters will carry the following messages and hashtags: 

‘We are in a housing & health emergency!’    ‘Take Action on Empty Homes’   ‘Why is this home empty?’ 

#PrettyVacant  #EmptyHomes  #Fillemup #HomesNeedResidents #TheWrongHousing

Homes 4 All will also be using the hashtags

#RequisitionEmptyHomes on Facebook and Twitter

#FillEmptyCouncilHomes on Facebook and Twitter

3. Put out a local press release – there will be a template on the AEH website for you to use if you want to.

4. To find how many empty homes there are in your council area click here. This tells you a lot about empty homes in your area. E.g. one in 9 homes in Kensington and Chelsea are “out of use”.

4. To find out about whole house Airbnbs in your council area visit here: https://www.airdna.co/

5. Use your social media to advertise the Day of Action.

We will post resources on our webpages to help you make the best impact on the day.

https://www.actiononemptyhomes.org/ and http://www.axethehousingact.org.uk/

For more information call

Will at Action on Empty Homes on 07968 950223

Tanya at Homes 4 All on: 07792 786192

Background and resources

Southwark Defend Council Housing has been leading the campaign to #RequisitionEmptyHomes #FillEmptyCouncilHomes since Spring 2020 when it became obvious that the Coronavirus pandemic was killing people in overcrowded housing and homeless people at a much greater rate than the general population. Now, following the successful Homes 4 All Summit in February, Homes 4 All have agreed to take this campaign forward in collaboration with Action on Empty Homes.

To see the Southwark DCH petition and open letter to Southwark Council click here

To see the Southwark DCH arguments for councils to requisition empty homes click here

For more exciting facts about the successful post war peoples’ movement to requisition empty homes by Sam Burgum click here

Resources

Interested in organising an empty homes photoshoot your area? Below are all the resources you will need.

Poster

You can also order hard copy posters for your selfie or event and we can supply posters at A1, A2, A3 and A4 size

Letters

Letter inviting groups and organisations to support the day of action

Letter to candidates in local elections on May 6th CLICK HERE FOR LETTER – if an election is taking place in your area, the letter invites candidates to support the campaign 

If you are unsure whether there are local elections in your area you can check by clicking here

Next General Meeting – March 27th 2021

Our next is scheduled for Saturday 27th March 2021 at 11am via Zoom. Get in touch with us for the login details.

The meeting will be an opportunity to take stock of where we go after our summit, and build on the energy and ideas that emerged.  Please join us.

The size and level of involvement at our Rally & Summit gave a clear indication of people’s huge concerns about housing, especially during these past 12 months of Covid-19.  These include many issues: from the threat of mass evictions to cladding and building safety in the wake of Grenfell, health & wealth inequality
and a government that has failed to offer any long-term solutions during 
and beyond the Covid crisis.

The Mayoral and local elections are looming and we have an opportunity to make housing a key issue. We will be discussing:

Update from workshops & proposed activities over coming weeks
Action around Mayoral/local elections
Steering Group – need more volunteers
Filling the Empties – stay on zoom to join meeting
AOB

The proposed action plan from the Summit workshops are here: 
http://www.axethehousingact.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/HousingSummit-Workshop-Actions.pdf
And Action on Empty Homes recommendations here: 
http://www.axethehousingact.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/AEH-Summary-Recommendations-for-change.pdf

Here is a template letter to send to your MP ahead of Budget Day: 
http://www.axethehousingact.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/final-UC-MP-letter-template-and-links.pdf