The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) has waded into the coronavirus response debate, urging the Government to go further, particularly for renters.
A report from the RSA said measures such as the mortgage repayment holiday, three month eviction ban, increased Universal Credit and local housing allowance were all welcome, but it warned this suggests the existing system wasn’t sufficient.
The RSA also warned that the increased notice period for rental evictions from two to three months would not help with tenant financial security, especially as they have to wait for it to pass through Parliament and be implemented.
It comes as a poll by the RSA, conducted before many of the measures were unveiled, found one in six (16%) of workers said they seriously feared becoming homeless due to missing a rent or mortgage payment as a result of coronavirus.
This was most acute amongst renters (26%), young people under 35 (22%) and those in insecure work (33%).
Its research found that the worry about being able to afford rent or mortgages could mean people force themselves to work even if they have coronavirus symptoms, 43% of renters and 40% of mortgage holders said they would feel obliged to work if they become unwell with it, due to needing the income.
More than half, 55% of private renters, said that the coronavirus has had a direct effect on their mental health or anxiety due to money worries.
Instead, the RSA suggests the Government introduce a universal basic income that starts with a one-off payment of £1,500 and monthly payments of £450.
Beyond this, it proposes the local housing allowance portion of Universal Credit – already raised to the 30th percentile of current rents in the area – is increase to median rents.
Hannah Webster, senior researcher at the RSA, said: “The Government’s approach to the private rental sector has been ill thought-out during this crisis, prioritising mortgage holders over the millions of private renters, many of whom are self-employed or in insecure work.
“Any further policy announcements must include a greater package of support for renters, to ensure that they can remain in their homes during the pandemic.
“Universal Credit needs to go further. In these difficult times, increasing the local housing allowance and removing the shared accommodation rates would go some of the way in providing security for those who need it most.
“On a wider level, a basic income could alleviate many of the issues faced by our precariat.
“This crisis should also spark a discussion about how we can build a resilient housing system.
“We would also urge the Government to come good on its recent promises, such as the removal of ‘no fault’ evictions and meeting social housing targets.”
So far, the Government has raised Universal Credit from £317.82 to £409.89 per month and removed the minimum income floor.
It is also increasing the Local Housing Allowance rate to the 30th percentile of market rents from April.