Fear of new homeless spike as Southend councillor urges local MP to use influence in parliament to extend eviction ban

A ban on landlords evicting residents will be lifted next week sparking fears that Southend Council could be left scrambling to deal with a new wave of homelessness.

The Government introduced the eviction ban at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown but that is set to end on August 23.

Labour councillor Matt Dent, of Kursaal ward, is urging Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge to use his influence in parliament to get the ban extended to avoid a “surge of evictions”.

In a letter to the MP, Cllr Dent said: “The temporary ban on evictions has been a tremendous reassurance, as well as being entirely necessary to prevent a new housing and public health crisis.

“Whilst clearly this moratorium cannot be permanent, I am very concerned this is far too early to lift it.

“Many of the residents that we both represent are still struggling financially, and the confirmation last week that the UK is officially in recession only serves to underscore this.

“Lifting the eviction ban now will only result in a surge of evictions and a consequent rise in homelessness within Kursaal ward and within Southend more broadly. At a time when we are still in the midst of a pandemic, I find this completely unacceptable.”

Mr Duddridge stoppeed short of confirming he would push for any form of extension to the ban and instead praised the Government for supporting “those struggling to make ends meet”.

He continued: “I know the Government is working to ensure that when courts re-open they are better able to address the need for appropriate protection of all parties.

“In addition, renters in need of financial support will continue to benefit from a £7billion increase to Universal Credit and an increase in the Local Housing Allowance rate.”

Meanwhile, Southend Council has said they will launch a new scheme aimed at encouraging landlords to call council advisors before making any decisions on evictions.

Cllr Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, said: “In June, we asked private property landlords to work with us and help end homelessness in return for up-front rent, deposit payments and a dedicated council officer to discuss any tenancy issues.

“Now to accompany this, we are soon to launch the ‘Call before you Serve’ scheme encouraging landlords to call Southend Council before serving notice on a property and for tenants who are worried to ring in and talk it through with our advisors.”

The scheme has been welcomed by Jackie Bliss, chief executive at Southend’s leading homeless charity Harp, who said the lifting of the eviction ban will “inevitably” put more peole at risk of homelessness.

She continued: “We have found that working with landlords and tenants before eviction can help people to keep a roof over people’s heads, so we welcome Southend Council’s ‘Call before you Serve’ scheme to encourage landlords to contact them before serving an eviction notice, as this can only help.

“However, for initiatives like this to have a lasting impact, we still need the Government to make a serious, long-term commitment to preventing homelessness.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter