A recent report revealed that over 750,000 families were lagging on their housing payments last month, with almost 450,000 of them facing arrears as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
These alarming figures were recently released in a report by Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank dedicated to improving the lives of low-income individuals residing in the UK.
The said report comprehensively traces the impact of the pandemic on housing costs. It also explores the plight of private renters in the UK.
According to the report, more than 750,000 families were falling behind on housing costs as of January 2021, indicating a manifold increase of 450,000 on pre-pandemic figures.
It also found that households struggling with housing payments were not getting a lot of support or assistance from their landlords. Over the last 10 months, only 3 % of renting families managed to negotiate a lower rent with their landlords.
Moreover, 1 in 20 private renters had their rent reduction proposals rejected even though that their income took a significant hit during the pandemic. On average, 1 in 4 renters said that their total income had dropped as a direct result of the Covid-19 crisis.
Meanwhile, the UK government took some initiatives to support the renters and cope with the escalating housing crisis.
In Northern Ireland, new rules were recently introduced to help tenants cope with turbulent times. The rules make it mandatory for landlords to offer their tenants a minimum notice term of 12 weeks to quit before initiating the eviction process.
Despite steps by the government, some worry that renters are receiving insufficient protection in times of need. The newly introduced policies have also been criticised for increasing the inequity between homeowners and private renters.
According to Resolution Foundation, mortgage holders were offered payment breaks that protected them during the crisis but renters who demanded reductions were turned away at ten times the rate of homeowners requesting breaks.
There is some speculation that with the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out and the Government intent on easing lockdown measures soon, a semblance of normalcy will be reinstated and the renters’ problems would be resolved to some extent.
The think tank fears that steps being taken by the government would be insufficient to support struggling tenants in the absence of support schemes such as the furlough scheme even after the lockdown is lifted.
“Both benefit cuts and the end of furlough are penciled in for spring, either of which will squeeze family incomes further,” read the report.
“Likewise, unemployment is more likely to rise than fall through 2021, driving the arrears even further,” it predicted.
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