ON SATURDAY the ban on evicting tenants in England and Wales, introduced by the Tories at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, is due to end, leaving an estimated 230,000 facing eviction for rent arrears.
According to research by the housing charity Shelter, an estimated 227,000 adult private renters in England are in rent arrears leaving them open to private landlords, housing associations and councils taking out court orders for eviction once the ban ends.
According to Shelter, 174 private tenants have already been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent during the Tory ban.
In all, the total number of private renters who have fallen into rent arrears during lockdown has reached 442,000 adults, double the number recorded in 2019.
In Scotland, the Scottish government recently announced that it intends to extend its ban on eviction until March 2021.
That hasn’t stopped Scottish landlords and councils from serving similar notices threatening tenants with eviction. Aberdeenshire council leads the way in sending nearly half of all re-possession notices issued by social landlords in Scotland in June.
Such is the danger of an avalanche of homelessness throughout the country, that senior doctors and health officials have written to the Tory communities secretary Robert Jenrick to warn that it risks driving up the rate of Covid-19 infections.
Representatives of the BMA and the Royal College of GPs warn that ‘failure to prevent an evictions and homelessness crisis could significantly contribute to an increase of Covid-19 infections.’
Housing, the letter insists, has been a major factor in the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on working class families, pointing out that the virus has flourished in areas of social and housing deprivation.
A poverty inquiry this week highlighted that poor housing, overcrowding and high rents in the London borough of Brent (officially the most deprived borough in the capital) had been decisive in Brent’s recording 490 deaths from coronavirus by the end of July – the highest death rate per 100,000 population in England and Wales.
Daniel J Carter, an epidemiologist, said: ‘The gap in government’s policy to protect renters increases the public health risk. If you cannot pay your rent, you may fear eviction. If you fear eviction, you may continue to travel and work. If you continue to travel and work, you may inadvertently acquire or spread Covid-19. And if enough people continue to spread the virus, a second wave of the pandemic looks inevitable.’
The working class has borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic while the bosses and bankers have ‘sheltered’ in their comfortable homes isolated from the poverty that capitalism has inflicted on workers and their families.
Evictions will mean hundreds of thousands of families thrown onto the streets or forced into insanitary ‘temporary’ accommodation, deathtraps where Covid-19 will spread unchecked. In fact, as furlough ends, bringing in the wholesale closure of businesses and companies, millions of workers will face unemployment and a future of poverty and homelessness.
Even if the Tories perform a U-turn and extend the ban on evictions for another few months, as the Labour Party are demanding, it is no solution to this crisis.
All an extension will do is put off the day of reckoning when the landlords and councils will demand full repayment of rent debt or eviction.
The only solution to this crisis is to put an end to the capitalist system that places profit above the lives and health of people. The working class must reject those leaders of the Labour Party and trade unions who seek to limit the struggle of workers to merely appealing to the Tories for help.
These leaders must be removed and replaced by the revolutionary leadership of the WRP that will organise a general strike to kick out the Tories and advance to a workers government and socialism.
Immediately a workers government will take over all the empty properties owned by the capitalist class and go on to nationalise the building industry and land to swiftly build the millions of council houses needed to provide the decent housing for workers that will ensure the best possible health protection.
This is the way forward.