Industry News Victoria Barker 30/09/2020

Today in politics: Green Homes Grants and Tenant Saver Loans call

In our politics update today we take a look at one Labour MPs parliamentary question on tenant saver loans, new Green Homes Grants launched today and HMO licensing.

Labour MP Presses Government to Develop Hardship Loans for Tenants

Grahame Morris MP (Labour, Easington) has received a response to his written question asking if MHCLG will bring forward a tenant loan scheme similar to the Tenancy Saver Loans and Tenant Hardship Loan Fund introduced by the Welsh and Scottish Government respectively.

The NRLA continues to campaign for interest free, government guaranteed hardship loans for tenants to support them to pay off Covid-related arrears.

The Housing Minister responded to Grahame Morris' question by speaking of the Government having provided an “unprecedented package of financial support to protect renters whose income has been affected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.” He went on to highlight especially:

  • Increasing the LHA to the 30th percentile which, he said, “will remain in place throughout the Winter period until at least the end of March 2021.” He went on to note that: “The increase will mean nearly £1 billion of additional support for private renters claiming Universal Credit or Housing Benefit in 2020/21 and benefits over 1 million households, including those in work. Claimants will gain on average an additional £600 this year in increased housing support.”
  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which, the Minister said, “has offered support for business to pay staff salaries, and the Chancellors recent announcement of the Government’s Winter Economy Plan now sets out further measures to support jobs and businesses.”
  • He went on to highlight the existing £180 million of Government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments made available this year, an increase, he said, of £40 million from last year, “which is for councils to distribute to support renters with housing costs.”
  • The Minister concluded that: “These measures enable renters to continue paying their rent and we will closely monitor the ongoing impact of the pandemic on renters.”

Grahame Morris MP has also received a response to his written question asking what steps the Department for Work and Pensions is taking to improve communication and partnership working between the universal credit system and landlords and letting agents when there are concerns about a claimants' tenancy.

The Work and Pensions Minister, Will Quince MP, responded:

“We provide clear routeways for Landlords to raise general queries or concerns about individual cases, for example, through our Partnership Manager network.

“In May 2020 we introduced a new online system for private landlords to enable better interaction with Universal Credit. Private landlords are now able to request a Universal Credit tenant’s rent is paid directly to them online, which helps claimants who struggle with managing their money to pay their rent. This system replaces the arrangement of completing a form and submitting it via email or post.

“This approach mirrors that used by Social Rented Sector (SRS) landlords, who have been able to request direct payment of housing support using the Social Rented Sector Landlord Portal since December 2019. The portal continues to be used by over 700 Social landlords to support the administration of SRS housing costs, and has been vital in helping landlords respond to the challenges of COVID-19. We are continuing to work with landlords to develop improvements to the portal and use their feedback to influence the features we release for the Portal.

“Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) are available for those claimants who cannot manage their single monthly payment and there is a risk of financial harm to the claimant and/or their family. APAs may be considered at the outset of a claim by a work coach or case manager, or at any time during the claim, such as if the claimant is struggling with the single monthly payment. They can also be triggered by information received from the claimant, their representative or their landlord.”

Conservative MP to Present Bill on Penalties for Contravening HMO Licenses

The Shadow Higher Education Minister, Emma Hardy MP (Labour, Hull West and Hessle) has received a response to her written questions asking the Department for Education:

  • If it will make an assessment of the potential merits of providing support to university students unable to provide a guarantor to secure their accommodation; and
  • What estimate it has made of the number of university students unable to provide a suitable guarantor for their securing accommodation?

The Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan MP, responded:

“We do not collate or currently hold information pertaining to the number of university students unable to provide a suitable guarantor for securing their accommodation.

“Any student struggling to provide a guarantor should, in the first instance, speak to the specialist accommodation team at their higher education (HE) provider to discuss the options available to them. Some HE providers operate a rent guarantor scheme for those students unable to provide a suitable guarantor to secure their accommodation. Students will receive scheduled payments of loans towards their living costs for the current 2020/21 academic year. Many HE providers will have hardship funds to support students in times of need.

“The expectation is that, where any student requires additional support, providers will support them through their own hardship funds.

“The government is aware of the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 outbreak will have on some students. Officials are working with the sector to continue to monitor the situation.

“The government has already worked closely with the Office for Students (OfS) to help clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Providers were able to use the funding, worth around £23 million per month for April to July, this year and £256 million for the 2020/21 academic year starting from August, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.

“We have also allocated £100 million to support remote education, including to provide routers and laptops to vulnerable students, prioritising care leavers, including those at university.

“The Student Space platform, which is funded by the OfS, bridges gaps in support for students arising from this unprecedented situation and is designed to work alongside existing services.”

Government Launches Green Homes Grant Scheme and Launches Consultation on Energy Efficiency of PRS Housing

The Government has formally launched the Green Homes Grant scheme today. You can read a blog by NRLA deputy director of policy and campaigns Meera Chindooroy about the new scheme here. 

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker Communications Officer

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the NRLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our news centre, the weekly e-newsletter, and manages and creates content for the association’s social media channels. She also contributes to our members magazine, Property.

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