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Shelter Cymru petition calls for stronger safety net

Shelter Cymru has launched a petition calling for urgent action to strengthen the welfare safety net for tenants to stop a wave of evictions and homelessness when the Coronavirus crisis is over.

It says the COVID-19 outbreak is causing huge financial hardship and that people across Wales are asking for advice about money worries.

The charity is asking the public to sign a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking the government to increase the support to people struggling to pay rent and ensure they can stay home and safe.

Shelter Cymru director John Puzey said:

‘We welcome the swift actions taken so far by the UK Government. However we are concerned about a potential wave of evictions and homelessness that’s likely to occur once this public health emergency is over. We’re asking the Chancellor to take further steps to strengthen the safety net for people who need it.’

The letter to the Chancellor is calling for:

  • Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to be lifted to cover the average cost of renting in each local area (the 50th percentile)
  • The benefit cap to be lifted for the course of at least a year to ensure families can access the support they need.

With many people losing their jobs and incomes, it said this further action is now needed to ensure huge numbers of people do not emerge from this crisis with unmanageable levels of debt or lose their home because they cannot pay their rent immediately after restrictions on evictions are lifted.

The Treasury restored LHA rates to the 30th percentile as part of its Coronavirus response but Shelter Cymru argues that covering only the cheapest 30% of rents makes just three in ten homes affordable in each local area. This leaves seven in ten family homes completely unaffordable at a time when it is a public health risk to move home.

And it says housing benefit should be lifted to cover the average cost of renting in each area, or the 50th percentile, for the duration of this emergency period.

To ensure families in need can access these new housing benefit rates, the benefit cap should also be lifted during the crisis. This measure will help more than 2,000 families in Wales who are on some of the lowest incomes.

Shelter Cymru also wants Welsh Government to extend eviction notice periods as an extra protection for tenants.

John Puzey said:

‘Welfare is not devolved to Wales, but housing is, and we hope that these measures will help the Welsh Government to stabilise the housing situation. We’re hoping that the Welsh Government will take the additional step of extending eviction notice periods to six months rather than the current three months. Taken together these measures will help to keep people afloat during and after the outbreak.’

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