Councils ask for new powers to seize properties for England's homeless

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
LEEK, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: A couple are seen looking at houses for sale at an estate agents in Market Town of Leek on November 11, 2020 in Leek, England. The United Kingdom will continue to impose lockdown measures until December 2 in an attempt to curb transmissions of the coronavirus (COVID-19)   (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Another point it raised was that bringing forward the government’s pledge to end ‘no fault evictions’ would prevent more households from becoming homeless once the stay on bailiff proceedings is lifted. Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

The Local Government Association (LGA), a body representing local councils, has called on the government to take action on the volumes of homeless people stuck in temporary accommodation during coronavirus lockdowns.

It said that around 450 primary schools’ worth of children are stuck in temporary accommodation amid a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

The latest figures for England show there are 127,240 children living in temporary accommodation, including 1,440 households with children in bed and breakfasts.

Measures to combat this could include new powers for councils to acquire empty homes, including making it easier to use Compulsory Purchase Order powers to buy properties and help move households on from temporary accommodation, the LGA said.

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The calls come following an extension by the government of eviction bans for renters in England and Wales. The ban had been set to end on Monday.

The move had also been called for by charities, and will mean eviction notices - which could have started again on Monday - will not be served for six weeks in England and longer in Wales.

The LGA also suggested improved protection through the welfare system, including maintaining the £20 ($27.17) per week increase in Universal Credit and maintaining Local Housing Allowance rates at the lowest third of market rents. Both of these measures are currently due to be removed in April.

It called for a review on the impact of the benefit cap in the context of the pandemic and for plans to be set out to deliver a step-change in social housing.

Another point it raised was that bringing forward the government’s pledge to end “no fault evictions” would prevent more households from becoming homeless once the stay on bailiff proceedings is lifted.

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Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson, said: “Living in temporary accommodation is disruptive and challenging for children and their families in normal times. These pressures will be being compounded by going into another lockdown, and on top of that some are unable to attend school.

He said the plan would “give councils a better chance of being able to move homeless children into permanent accommodation and also minimise the risk of other households becoming homeless as a result of the pandemic.

“This should include ensuring the welfare system is able to support families facing hardship and increasing the housing supply available to councils, as well as powers for councils to acquire empty properties and build much-needed social housing.”

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