Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy called for more government measures to help renters signing a cross-party letter for emergency Universal Basic Income (UBI).
Ms Ribeiro-Addy, who has been self-isolating following symptoms of coronavirus, has called for the government to act to protect renters, such as freeze rents.
On March 20, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak published a new proposal under the coronavirus job retention scheme where companies will be able to apply for grants to help cover 80% of the wages of workers who have had to stop working because of the coronavirus shutdown.
Following these announcements, Shadow Immigration Minister Ms Ribeiro-Addy said: “The government’s announcement of its job retention scheme signals an important shift in policy emphasis.
“But it’s not far or fast enough.
“Delving behind the headlines, we see there are still significant issues facing the majority of UK workers.”
To support self-employed and zero-hour contractors, Mr Sunak also announced an increase of the Universal Credit allowance by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months, equivalent to statutory sick pay for employees.
Ms Ribeiro-Addy said: “Statutory sick pay in particular, remains at the same low level, while the timescale of the scheme itself is a concern.
“The decision to increase the Universal Credit standard is welcome but I’m keen for further clarity on what the government intends to do for those who lost their jobs while it delayed.
“There are also question marks over accessibility to the scheme, with individuals and companies still unclear on exactly how they’re meant to access these grants.”
The new plan has not been welcomed by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, who regrets the lack of obligation for employers to keep their staff and with full wages being paid.
My response to the Chancellor's further economic announcements today. pic.twitter.com/CfCk4fUSov— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) March 20, 2020
Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government announced a series of measures designed to help renters and landlords affected by coronavirus, such as a three-month mortgage payment holiday for landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties.
Ms Ribeiro-Addy said: “Legislating to suspend rents is the only way we can ensure all landlords do the right thing.
“As things stand, most tenants will end up being buried under mountains of debt.”
#Covid19 has drastically slashed income for many people already and will only affect many more as it spreads.— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) March 20, 2020
Without a basic income to see them through the crisis, these people will be left in financial hardship, unable to buy the basics they need to survive #EmergencyUBI
“This is a government of landlords, so it’s unsurprising to see them siding with rentiers over renters.
“The current dispensation would leave landlords with much greater financial flexibility than their tenants, who will have to make a choice between moving forwards under a burden of debt, or being evicted and struggling to find a new place to live.
“That’s before we consider the fact that most homeowners have more savings and assets to draw on, whereas 1/3 of renters have no savings and 50% only have enough to last for three months.
“If we’re all in this together we should have equal relief for homeowners and renters and the government should foot the bill.
“No one should be out of pocket in this crisis.”
Ms Ribeiro-Addy welcomed the government’s ban on evictions made earlier this week but is still hoping for more decisive measures.
Emergency legislation has been enabled for landlords not to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a 3 month period.
Landlords and tenants are also asked to “work together to establish an affordable repayment plan” after the period.
Asked whether these measures could lead to a wider eviction crisis once the ban is over, Bell Ribeiro-Addy said: “Given the already precarious status of many private sector renters, Labour are deeply concerned about the possibility of eviction and homelessness on a widespread scale.
“This is why we’ve suggested extending the eviction ban to six months (with the flexibility to review this and continue if necessary).”
Photo credits : Ethan Wilkinson for Pexel