The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has set out a £65m fund to help those who are struggling with rent arrears in England.
The £65m fund has been welcomed but both landlords and renters groups have called for far more funding.
The funding will be given to councils and will be available through the winter months and households at risk of eviction or homelessness should contact their local council if they require support.
It comes just a couple of weeks after the Government put forward a £500m winter fund to help those who need it access essentials.
Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Eddie Hughes, said: “We have taken action throughout the pandemic to support the most vulnerable families, and it is vital we continue to provide support as we enter the winter months.
“This new funding will support families that are struggling and help to get them back on their feet as we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Katie Schmuecker, Deputy Director of Policy & Partnerships at JRF said: “The build-up of rent arrears among households on low incomes is a huge problem and one of the clearest signs of the unequal impact the pandemic has had, so we are pleased to see the Government respond to this issue.
“The funding announced today will be vital in preventing people from going through the traumatic experience of being evicted and potentially becoming homeless.
“£65m has been announced today but we estimate that the group this support is targeted at has built up around £440m of rent arrears.
“With the cost of living continuing to rise sharply and households on low incomes still reeling from the huge overnight cut to Universal Credit, without further action this problem is only likely to grow despite the support announced today.
“Until we address the fundamental inadequacy of social security support, we will continue to see families at the sharp end swept into poverty and homelessness. We urge the Government to reinstate the £20 in Universal Credit at next week’s Budget, as well as relinking housing benefit to local rents.”
Chris Norris, Policy Director for the National Residential Landlords Association said: “We welcome the announcement of this funding and urge local authorities to target it at those tenants most struggling with Covid rent debts.
“It is great news that those households worst hit by Covid related arrears may be able to access financial support. However, £65m does not fully reflect the scale of the problem. NRLA analysis has put the figure of Covid rent debts at over £300m.
“With warnings that rent debts could pose a risk to the economic recovery and the Government admitting that many landlords are highly vulnerable to arrears the Chancellor must go further.”
Alicia Kennedy, Director of Generation Rent, said: “Hundreds of thousands of private renters who lost income during the pandemic have fallen into arrears and are still living with the dread that they will be made homeless.
“Generation Rent has long warned the government of the devastating effect that rent debt has on people’s lives, so we welcome this new funding and its recognition of how hard private renters have been hit in the past 18 months.
“It’s a significant step forward that will help keep people in their homes when they would otherwise have been evicted. But with rents rising and Universal Credit cut, we fear it won’t be enough to prevent families hitting crisis point.”
Cllr Darren Rodwell, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, said: “It is good the Government has acted on the concerns of councils about the financial impact of the pandemic on private tenants and the potential increase in homelessness as a result.
“This funding should provide some much-needed reassurance to many private renters who are genuinely at risk of losing their homes because of financial difficulties.
“Longer-term we look forward to working with Government on a cross-departmental plan to tackle homelessness. Fundamental to this is building more social housing, which is why we are calling on government in next week’s Spending Review to give councils the powers and resources to deliver a house-building programme of 100,000 social homes for rent a year.”
Peter Tutton, Head of Policy, Research and Public Affairs at StepChange, comments: “This additional £65 million of rent arrears support for low-income earners to be delivered through councils is helpful.
“While more will be needed to turn the tide on the backlog of rent arrears built up during the pandemic, which still needs attention in next week’s Budget, it should reduce the immediacy of the mounting eviction pressure facing some of the most vulnerable households with the most entrenched rent problem debt.”