Rent crisis: Housing charities warn government's £65m rescue package ‘barely touches sides' of £440m arrears

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Housing charities have warned a £65m rescue package of support for private renters who have built up arrears during the pandemic will ‘barely touch the sides’ of the crisis.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DHLUC) announced a £65m fund for low-income households in rent arrears last week.

However, experts estimate nearly 1 million people are in rent arrears built up during the pandemic with a total debt of around £440m. A total of 3.8 million of low-income households are believed to be behind on domestic bills.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned that with the cost of living forecast to rise as inflation is predicted to jump to four per cent this year, the funding package won’t be enough to prevent evictions and homelessness.

Rent crisis: Housing charities warn government’s £65m rescue package ‘barely touches sides’ of £440m arrears
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Darre Baxter, Policy & Partnerships Manager at JRF told i: “We find seven in ten low-income households who are behind on their essential bills are behind on more than one bill, and more than a third are behind on three of more bills.

“We have called on the Government to at least double the Household Support Fund.”

Dan Wilson Craw of the lobby group Generation Rent said: “It’s welcome that the government has made this money available to prevent homelessness, but it’s nowhere near the amount that we and other organisations have estimated is needed to clear all arrears in the private sector.

“Even for people who have started earning again, it can be impossible to pay off the arrears that have built up, on top of the monthly rent.”

Charities also expressed concern that no clear guidance had been set on who would be eligible for funding, which could see vulnerable renters slip through the net.

When asked by i how the Government would define “low-income households”, a spokesperson for DHLUC said that it was up to local authorities to decide how to administer support and prioritise “need in their local area in line with existing homelessness duties.”

The funding is in addition to a £500m package announced in September to help families struggling to afford food, energy, water and other essentials.

Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Eddie Hughes MP 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.”

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