Oxford has some of the most expensive rents and house prices in the country, and I have campaigned to address this since I was elected. When this current crisis is over, we need to think about what country we want to live in, and part of that must be tackling the longer-term housing crisis, with stronger regulations for tenants and much more affordable and social housing.
However, what we need now is quick, easy to implement emergency measures to ensure that people do not lose their homes in the immediate future, as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The government’s current protections – a limited increase in Local Housing Allowance, and a temporary ban on evictions — do not go far enough, and they have worryingly not yet confirmed that the eviction ban will be extended beyond the end of June.
As a result, Labour are calling on the government to extend their temporary ban on evictions, protect residential tenants from bankruptcy, scrap ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlaw evictions caused by arrears if those arrears were a result of financial hardship in the coronavirus crisis, give renters up to two years to pay back any arrears accrued in this period, and speed up and improve the provision of Universal Credit, as well as temporarily increase the Local Housing Allowance. Taken alongside our proposal to remove the savings cap on Universal Credit, these measures would work together to ensure that even if people endure other financial hardships, they would be able to keep their homes. These measures would be quick to legislate for and implement, too – Labour has already drafted the necessary legislation.
If you find yourself facing difficulty or the prospect of eviction Oxford’s advice centres can provide assistance and support, including setting up appointments with Shelter, and they can also help you look into sources of income available to you. Oxford City Council are also offering help and advice for those being threatened with eviction: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20104/private_housing/1370/coronavirus_-_advice_for_private_landlords_agents_and_tenants.
I am also concerned at the situation facing mortgage-holders in the city. With house prices in Oxford coming in at many multiples of the average salary, many people are worried about their ability to keep paying their mortgage. The mortgage holiday which was agreed across the financial sector was of course welcome, but of limited duration. I have been in discussions with mortgage providers and the Financial Conduct Authority to consider what can be done to have a longer-term solution for those people who otherwise would be in danger of having their home repossessed. Many of the protections introduced following the 2008-9 financial crisis for mortgage-holders have since been removed, so it is critical that more support is provided.
As always, I encourage any of my constituents who need help to contact my office, either by emailing Anneliese.email@example.com or calling 01865 595 790 from 9-5 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.