The ban on home evictions was set to be lifted in England on Tuesday, with hundreds of thousands of people facing the threat of homelessness.
It is another sign that the government is unwinding concessions it was forced into during the lockdowns.
Some 400,000 renters have been served an eviction notice or told they could be, according to estimations from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
And an additional 450,000 households are behind on rent. Nearly a fifth of those have been in arrears for more than four months.
According to a poll of 10,000 households across Britain by JRF, black, Asian or minority ethnic renters were twice as likely to have concerns about evictions.
JRF estimated 1 million households are concerned about potential evictions in the next three months—half with children.
The evictions ban has been in place since March 2020 to protect tenants who were unable to pay rent and fell into arrears due to the pandemic.
But those who are already behind on four months’ rent will only be given a one-month notice once the ban is lifted.
Evictions have been proceeding through courts throughout the pandemic. For those who have already been served a notice, court bailiffs will be able to act within two weeks of when an eviction date is given.
According to housing charity Shelter, 72 percent of private renters are worried they will be unable to find a home after eviction. This equates to 1.9 million adults.
Shelter also found that 47 percent of this group had made “unacceptable compromises” to pay rent.
This included living far away from family support or accepting poor conditions.
Of all private renters in England, 20 percent have had to cut back on food or heating.
And a third of those in arrears have borrowed during the pandemic in an attempt to cover rent.
Homelessness has also increased during the first two lockdowns, and the wave of evictions expected in the coming months will see numbers skyrocket again.
In Wales the ban will be lifted on 20 June, and in Scotland not until 30 September.
Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of housing charity Generation Rent, said, “Lifting restrictions on evictions now, without dealing with all this debt, is a reckless move from a government who said people who lost income in the pandemic wouldn’t lose their home.”
Despite the pandemic hitting many working class people hard, the national restrictions are being lifted because it was “the right time”, according to the government.
It is prioritising landlords’ profits over people’s needs.
Deadly cladding still on school buildings
More than 70 schools have been built using combustible insulation, despite the material being banned on high-rise apartment blocks after the Grenfell Tower fire.
Plastic foam insulation was banned on residential buildings over 18 metres high in December 2018. But a further 25 hospitals, care homes and housing complexes are believed to have been built with flammable insulation.
Experts say this is almost definitely an underestimate.
The Department of Education revealed last week new fire safety proposals for schools that would allow deadly cladding to be used on buildings below 18 metres.
In the last five years 47 primary and secondary school buildings have been destroyed by a fire in England.
Kingspan, the company who made the flammable insulation for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, told the government it opposed a ban of specific products.
The inquiry into the 2017 Grenfell fire has previously heard how Kingspan rigged tests to get its product on the market.
A council contractor was spotted using Kingspan insulation on a new special education needs school in North Kensington—where Grenfell Tower is.
“The fact that a construction company is using a known flammable product on a school, which is intended for 80 of the borough’s most vulnerable children, is beyond reprehensible,” local campaigner Leearna said.
“But the fact that RBKC (Kensington and Chelsea council) has yet again failed to oversee and scrutinise the works of their contractors on their builds, is ludicrous.”
The council had previously banned its contractors from using any products from companies involved in the fire that killed 72 people.
Renters need more help
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation called on ministers to increase funding to those in arrears through the discretionary housing payment system (DHP).
The DHP allows councils to top up payments for tenants in need. It has been granted £180 million, which is “nowhere near enough” according to JRF.
Housing charity Generation Rent told the Tories to set aside £300 million to cover rent debts.
This is just over 5 percent of the £5 billion cost of the Stamp Duty holiday—a tax break for buying a home that has pushed up house prices.
Meanwhile the poorest are suffering consequences of economic crisis. JRF said this shows the government setting up a “two-tier recovery”.
The “unprecedented” support the Tories claim to have given has not been enough to keep many from falling into arrears.
And the Tories have only extended the Universal Credit £20 a week uplift until September.