The statement made by Eddie Hughes, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, in the House of Commons on 25 October 2021.
The Government have protected renters across the country throughout the pandemic, providing an unprecedented £400 billion support package for the economy, a six-month stay on possession proceedings to protect renters from eviction, and extended notice periods. Thanks to this support, the vast majority of private renters (93%) are up to date with their rent. We are spending almost £30 billion supporting people with their housing costs in 2020-21. With the UK economic recovery gathering pace, we are continuing to help people into work and increase their earning potential—the most sustainable route to financial security. We are investing billions through our plan for jobs and the lifetime skills guarantee.
We recognise, however, that some private renters have rent arrears built up as a result of the pandemic and vulnerable households may need additional support.
We have therefore announced an exceptional one-off payment of £65 million that will be made available to local authorities in 2021-22 through the homelessness prevention grant. The additional funding will support local authorities to help vulnerable households with rent arrears to reduce the risk of them being evicted and becoming homeless, including helping households to find a new home where necessary. Local authorities will target funding to those who need it most and help them to get back on their feet.
The investment builds on the £310 million in funding already available to local authorities through the homelessness prevention grant—a £47 million uplift on last year to help fully enforce the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017—which is part of the overall investment of more than £750 million this year to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.
This announcement underlines the Government’s commitments to building back better from the pandemic, supporting renters and tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. The funding will ensure local authorities are given the resource they need to make this a reality in local areas. It will allow us to build upon the success we have had in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping with the number of families in temporary accommodation now at the lowest level since 2016 and a 37% decrease in rough sleeping recorded in the 2020 annual rough sleeping snapshot compared to 2019.
The £65 million funding is in addition to the recently announced £421 million household support fund to help vulnerable families in England with essentials over the coming months, which will be distributed by councils to those who need it most, including for example through small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities. Further support is also available to renters through the welfare system. This includes £140 million in discretionary housing payments funding, which is available for local authorities this financial year to distribute to support renters with housing costs.