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Oxford renters face eviction crisis

Renters in Oxford are facing growing uncertainty with the end of the government’s three-month eviction ban.

Many renters, especially those on furlough or Universal Credit payments, may be faced with significant financial difficulties as a result of the ban ending.

The ban, which also applies to buy-to-let landlords, has so far protected those who have lost income as a result of the pandemic. However, with many renters already spending more than 50% of their income on rent, there are fears that there will be an eviction crisis once this period comes to an end.

This mirrors the national picture, where according to YouGov 2 million renters may be unable to pay rent as a result of a loss of income from the pandemic. Oxford may prove to be at the forefront of this national crisis, owing to the proportion of income Oxford residents spend on rent.

ACORN Oxford, a member-led campaigning organisation working to help renters, said: “Without a rent waiver, thousands of tenants who have lost income during this crisis will be facing mounting debt and the threat of eviction once the temporary ban is lifted.

“People are already having to choose between buying food and paying rent. No one should have to worry about losing the roof over their head during a pandemic. We need to come together in our communities to defend renters, while we call for the government to take urgent action.”

The Oxford Tenant’s Union, a group focusing on helping renters in Oxford, said: “The eviction ban the government has put in place does not go nearly far enough. Renters will still be going into rent arrears with reduced incomes and at the end of the eviction ban we will undoubtedly be facing a massive homelessness and eviction crisis.

“Official recommendation has been made by the New Economics Foundation (an independent think tank) calling for a suspension of all rent payments as a very achievable solution to support renters. The government also needs to follow through on their promise to bring an immediate and permanent suspension to Section 21 of the Housing Act.”

They commented on the Government’s current policy: “The Government advice for landlords to show compassion is not a proper policy that can be relied upon where so many landlords will not negotiate with tenants.

“We are still seeing lots of aggressive behaviour from landlords, including NHS staff lodgers being evicted by their landlord. We need real protection for renters to stop a huge rise in homelessness and stop the most vulnerable going into debt.

“We’re hearing from renters, including many students, whose landlords are refusing to offer any sort of rent reduction even though they’ve asked; students who are being forced to pay the entirety of their contract even though they can’t physcally get back here or their housemates have left because of COVID-19; and shared houses where landlords or lettings agencies are still having strangers visit the house for viewings

Oxford Mutual Aid, a grassroots community support group which provides support to the Oxford community, also told Cherwell: “Until now, everyone has mostly been focusing on the progress of the pandemic and the effects of the lockdown. That’s understandable, but we all need to be preparing for the economic repercussions. Housing precarity was already a huge issue before Covid-19, and there are a lot of people in Oxford who are going to need help.”

MP for Oxford East, Anneliese Dodds, told Cherwell: “Current protections for renters are inadequate. While the government have introduced some temporary measures, like pausing evictions temporarily and heeding Labour’s call to raise Local Housing Allowance, these do not go far enough.

“While in the long term we need to fix the housing crisis, Labour have called on the government to introduce an emergency package of measures to help renters now. Here in Oxford, the City Council are also providing practical help to those evicted from their homes, and I also encourage constituents to contact my office if they need assistance.”

Image credit to Roger Kidd / geograph.co.uk

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