Members in Brighton joined national calls for the Government to suspend rent, cancel all rent debt, and put in place stronger protections against eviction for renters who have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.
The grassroots community union, known for its red flags and direct action tactics, mobilised in cities around the country, holding socially-distanced rallies and banner drops at key locations. Union members testified to the impact Covid-19 has had on their housing and financial situations, and are putting pressure on the Government to implement more effective measures to address the ‘unprecedented rise’ in homelessness that has come about as a result of the pandemic.
Roughly one in five families across the UK live in privately rented accommodation, with a similar proportion in social housing. On March 18th, the Government announced a three month suspension of evictions, as well as a modest expansion of social security and income support. These announcements came after strong pressure from ACORN and other unions, and while the new measures were welcomed, campaigners feel they do not go far enough.
With the 3-month no-eviction period coming to an end in the next few weeks, ACORN are worried that thousands of renters are facing the prospect of losing their home, or being saddled with crippling debt. A spokesperson for the Union said:
Unless we see strong government intervention to protect renters from eviction and waivers for debt accrued during the crisis, many tenants are going to find themselves in an extremely precarious position that could have a disastrous impact on their health and well-being.
Many tenants have already experience shortfalls in income as a result of being furloughed, and Universal Credit simply does not provide an adequate safety net to help tenants to weather the crisis.
Polling shows that six in ten renters have suffered losses to their income as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with many ineligible for government support to help cover rent and other essentials such as food. Furthermore, recent guidelines published by the Government have clarified that landlords can issue eviction notices to renters who enter into arrears. An ACORN member who wishes to remain anonymous told us:
With the lockdown all of my housemates have lost the ability to earn the money we need to afford the already extortionate rent. Realising the precarious position our household was in, we decided to get in touch with ACORN, our letting agent and our landlord.
We explained our situation and asked for a waiver, or a rent reduction. The letting agent refused our requests saying that they expect the rent in full regardless of the pandemic.
If the Government do not consider ACORN’s demands to extend the ban on evictions, then we face losing our home.
- An extension of the evictions ban for a minimum of 6 months or for as long as needed to protect renters affected by coronavirus
- An immediate and permanent end to Section 21
- A rent waiver for the duration of the crisis meaning that any arrears accrued as a result of the pandemic cannot be expected or used as grounds for eviction
- Landlords should have to start the process for any paused evictions from scratch once the ban on court proceedings is lifted
- Protection against eviction to be extended to lodgers
Across the country, ACORN are empowering low-income communities. To join, visit their website.