Claire Frew, Policy and Impact Manager at Homeless Network Scotland, comments on the current discussions on evictions and the urgency needed to prevent evictions in homelessness.
Emergency legislation to prevent the enforcement of evictions during the pandemic has played a vital role in protecting people’s homes – and may at least in part have contributed to the reduction in homelessness applications reported during the first year of lockdown.
As circumstances change and restrictions start to lift, partners who came together on this issue in response to the public health emergency are now setting out what is needed in the longer term.
SFHA in a recent report encourage that the pre-pandemic process on evictions needs returned to, that housing associations always arrange payment plans for tenants in rent arrears and will not evict someone who has agreed to, and is meeting, the terms of such an agreement. On the other hand, there are also strong arguments being made for an extension to the pause on evictions; that people’s homes should be protected while there is any level of pandemic restriction in Scotland.
For Homeless Network Scotland, the route forward is clear – under no circumstances should anyone in Scotland be evicted with nowhere to go. That has always been disproportionate, serves no purpose and achieves no gain. This is also a central pillar of Everyone Home, the collective of 35 third and academic sector organisations. We need the focus of the current conversation on evictions to shift there, and urgently.
The most common reason for eviction is rent arrears. The Scottish Government recently announced a £10m fund, grants, not loans, to support tenants who have fallen into rent arrears as a direct result of COVID-19. While the details are still to be worked up, this is welcome. Getting cash directly to people can stop evictions quickly and decisively. It must be directed to prevent evictions and to reset the counter on any stage of the eviction process that the household was at.
We want to encourage confidence – and evidence – that housing associations will never evict someone who has agreed to, and is meeting, the conditions of rent payment plans. And with more support for housing associations, councils and tenants to deliver that.
And importantly, we want more value given to the benefits of early intervention and the value of keeping people in their homes where possible. This outcome can be achieved through a proactive housing management approach focused on earlier intervention, with independent advice, information and advocacy for tenants and resources in place to ensure we do not return to a situation where people are being turned away or moved on without accommodation.
The SFHA report acknowledges the benefits of early intervention and the value of keeping people in their homes where possible. To follow on from this, SFHA – in partnership with Homeless Network Scotland, Crisis and Simon Community Scotland – are inviting bids from housing specialists to research, consult and create a practical resource to assist social housing providers to protect homes, prevent eviction, maximise tenancy sustainment and prevent homelessness in Scotland.
More information from the SFHA website here: www.sfha.co.uk/jobs-online/tenders