At the end of January 2020, Welsh housing association ClwydAlyn announced a ‘zero eviction’ policy, with a fundamental shift towards tenancy support, early intervention, and building trust with tenants.
Before the pandemic, evictions were already on the rise across all tenures. Possession claims in court for March – June 2019 increased by 39% on the same quarter in 2018. Around 15,000 claims were from social landlords, primarily housing associations. A crisis was already unfolding.
In April 2020, government rent restrictions for housing associations came to an end. This meant that most associations increased rents on average by 2.7% for social housing tenants. For market renters, increases have been much higher in some cases. Coinciding with the financial hit caused by Corona Virus, this is pushing many people into the abyss of rent arrears.
The pandemic halted evictions as courts closed, but at end of August 2020 they will re-open and a tidal wave will be unleashed as people whose employment has been disrupted by lockdown get into ever greater arrears. We must plan now how to ensure that housing associations use their vast resources and waive rents instead of persecuting those in financial difficulty.
Tragedies Waiting to Happen
Three years ago, the fire at Grenfell Tower killed 72 people and displaced around 500 because of unsafe cladding. Today, around 300 buildings above 18 metres tall have yet to have their similar cladding made safe, leaving around 56,000 residents at huge risk. A further estimated 100,000 smaller blocks have not yet even been assessed, according to a report by Inside Housing magazine.
The response from HA landlords has, on the whole, been a disgrace, being more concerned with hiding the risks from tenants than addressing the problem. SHAC has learnt of one landlord who has received a report that their tower block failed the External Wall System (cladding) check, but is deliberately withholding it from tenants.
Tenants need stronger protections and the legal right to information, but it will not be granted without sustained pressure on landlords and government. Join us to discuss how we can organise together to expose this scandal.