Under mounting public pressure, ministers have extended the ban on residential evictions in England and Wales until 20 September. Until the end of March most renters will also get 6 months’ notice before landlords can evict them. Disgraced housing secretary Robert Jenrick has described this paltry extension as “supporting renters over winter”.
This support does not extend to any government cover of rent arrears however, meaning that many tenants will be faced with debts which are impossible to pay. Once the notice period has concluded, these innocent victims of the system will be forced out of their homes and onto the streets.
The reaction from landlords has been predictably callous. They are trying to whip up sympathy for their lost profits, regardless of the homelessness, exposure to the virus and vulnerability evictions cause.
A survey by Shelter suggests that more than 170,000 private tenants have been threatened with eviction, and 230,000 in England have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started. With the imminent end of the furlough scheme, the number of people unable to keep up with rent payments will inevitably increase.
Despite desperate need for additional council housing, the government has failed to take action. Councils need to be freed from the disastrous spending freeze and given the funds to immediately begin constructing sufficient council housing for all.
Why should the working class be punished with homelessness just because the capitalist system is unable to protect their jobs in a time of crisis? The ban on evictions needs to be extended until the unemployment crisis has been resolved!
The Coronavirus pandemic will provide a rare opportunity for such an action, as landlords and hotels go bust up and down the country. Councils should requisition or expropriate these vacant properties for those who will otherwise face homelessness.
The alternative is human suffering on an immense scale. To stop it will take an immense struggle. The working class needs to organise mass action – demonstrations, rent strikes, pickets capable of repelling bailiffs and police – to ensure that the eviction ban is not ended before everyone has a place they can call home.