The UK government’s response to Corona Virus has been slow and ineffective. A pandemic on a global scale requires an evidence based response and precautions to be put in place immediately which will protect the most vulnerable in our population both in the immediate, and when consequences are inevitably still unfolding months down the line.
The government has announced that anybody with a new and continuous cough and/or a high temperature should self-isolate for 14 days, but there has been no increase in Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or a freeze on rent payments. We are already seeing examples of landlords harassing tenants or asking them to pay April’s rent early - something the majority of people are in no position to do. The UK’s SSP is the lowest in Europe at £94.25 a week, which would barely cover your rent.
It is clear that the health and wellbeing of the most precarious workers and tenants is not the top priority of the government. Quality of housing in both the private and social rented sector is notoriously bad, with mould and damp affecting millions of people all over the country in homes they share with many other people. Enforcing a working from home policy for people’s health when their home also makes tenants unwell is counterproductive - homes should be fit to live in.
What can we do?
Demand Protection for Renters
France has introduced a suspension of rent and household bills and many cities across the US have temporarily banned evictions, we urge our supporters to sign ACORN’s petition calling for the same in the UK:
- Enact temporary rent freezes for renters suffering with the virus or self isolating for the period of their self isolation and recover
- Announce an emergency freeze on all current section 21 or section 8 evictions
- Announce an emergency freeze on all applications for section 21 or 8 evictions
- Announce an emergency freeze on evictions of housing association and council tenants
- In line with the above, decree that any period of time spent in self isolation or ill with Coronavirus will be disregarded in section 8 hearings and not counted in the ‘over 2 months of arrears’ threshold.
Generation Rent are calling on as many people as possible to write to their MP and ask for a freeze on evictions and immediate access to housing benefits. Take action here.
2. Reach out in Your Local Community
Years of austerity have decimated community infrastructures which means people are finding innovative ways of organising online to make sure neighbours, friends and family are as okay as possible during the crisis. Residents are making leaflets to put through neighbours’ doors which include a phone number, a link to a community Whatsapp or Facebook group and offers to walk dogs, collect prescriptions or shopping or cook meals. If you don’t want to come into contact with others even just including a phone number for people who may be feeling particularly lonely during these periods could really help.
900 groups have already been established across the country in response to Coronavirus- check to see if one exists in your area here.
In Greater Manchester, Tenants Union UK and Greater Manchester Housing Action have set up a Facebook group to share organising tips and ideas and to make sure we remain connected while we are all facing isolation. It is important to remain united in our responses while the government is intent on inaction. Join the Facebook group here and sign up to Tenants Union UK’s mailing list if you can help in your local community or you’d like to keep up to date with how the crisis is affecting renters here.