Housing is a crucial part of any society. It provides citizens with the security and foundations to develop a fruitful livelihood for themselves and their family. Whether it be a first homeowner, a lifelong renter, or a shared house, safe, affordable, and adequate housing is critical.
Yet in recent years in Britain, the housing market has been squeezed greatly. Rents have increased significantly, a problem which has been compounded by reduced housing stock. Moreover, the ideological inflexibility of this Tory Government means they are unwilling to build affordable and attractive homes for sale, but also for rent, in the social housing sector.
Of the promised 200,000 starter homes from the Conservatives, analysis from the National Audit Office concluded that since 2015 none of these houses have been constructed. To worsen matters, of the 130,000 homes planned since 2015, only 20,000 are deemed affordable, making it even harder for potential buyers.
It is no surprise then, that since March the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the risks which both homeowners and renters face and are now being placed into even more increasingly precarious positions.
Initial support from the Government in March was welcomed, with a mortgage holiday, which many supportive landlords extended to renters, but also for homeowners, who could defer payments during times of hardship. However, the facts have now changed and the Government must change its policies as a result.
Many households have now exhausted the six-month mortgage holiday and the economic upturn, or the ‘V-shaped’ recovery the Chancellor and Prime Minister have spoken so much about, is yet to occur. What’s more, with Bolton still in Tier 3, our business and economic activity still sits at a fraction of the pre-pandemic levels. 890,000 households in work expect to see a drop in earnings next month, with 85% of this group unable for further government support with their housing costs, figures which demand assistance.
Moreover, recent polling from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and YouGov revealed that 1.6 million households are worried about paying their mortgage over the next three months and worse still 2.6 million households claim that their income has reduced since March because of the economic downturn.
The polling also exposed the perilous positions renters find themselves in. Approximately 2.5 million rented households are concerned about their rental payments, and 700,000 are already in rental arrears totalling £400 million.
These anxieties are worsened for many, as 350,000 households have already been served an eviction notice or have spoken to their landlord about eviction, despite the ban on evictions introduced by the Government.
The figures are also problematic for self-employed homeowners, the backbone of the British economy. According to analysis carried out by Labour, self-employed single homeowners on the national minimum wage have had a 70% reduction in their pre-crisis monthly income.
As the UK looks towards its recovery in 2021, it’s absolutely crucial that the Government considers renters. I support calls by Joseph Rowntree Foundation in calling for a watertight ban on evictions, preventing exploitative behaviour by landlords to ensure there are adequate protections. It is unacceptable that landlords are able to skirt the rules and evict people at such a dire time, both in public health terms, and economic terms.
Last month, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced in the Spending Review that infrastructure spending will total £100 billion next year, the highest level in 40 years, yet he refused to outline any real support for homeowners and renters. There is no specific support for those in rental arrears making it all the more urgent for the Government to act urgently and provide a real support system. I will continue to push the Government to ensure the highest levels of supports for renters and homeowners in Britain.