‘Inevitable’ second wave of homelessness expected in East Devon over winter after evictions ban ends

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is preparing to deal with an ‘inevitable second wave of homelessness’ over the winter now a ban on evictions had been lifted.

Cabinet members heard that, during the coronavirus pandemic, the authority has seen a huge increase in demand for people requiring temporary accommodation.

This is due approaches from high numbers of people fleeing domestic violence, those needing accommodation for health reasons, hospital discharges and those with a need to shield.

There had also been a large increase from ‘sofa-surfers’ who had previously freely moved between properties, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

The Government lifted an a ban on landlords evicting tenants on September 20.

Housing solutions manager Andrew Mitchell  said that between April and September there have been 432 homeless approaches recorded.

The number was in fact lower than the 555 for the same period in the previous year.

But Mr Mitchell said: “This figure has been reached without the usual high number of homeless approaches from people losing accommodation in the private sector.

“This is as a direct result of the Government’s current restrictions on evictions from tenancies in the social and private sectors.

“Year-on-year the loss of accommodation in the private sector is a major contributor to homeless approaches to East Devon.

“We are acutely aware that this is only a temporary measure and there will be a high number of approaches from people losing accommodation in the private sector when the Government restrictions on evictions are lifted.

“Despite the lower number of overall approaches during the last six months, it is noted that many cases have been of a much higher complexity than usual and the issues we have experienced in dealing with these complex cases has been compounded by the reduction in the potential solutions available to us as a direct result of the pandemic.

“Some of the issues we have come up against include the period of reduced free movement during full lockdown, a reduced supply of available accommodation within the private and social sectors, and lack of access to supported accommodation projects.”

Councillor Mike Allen told the meeting on Wednesday: “The pain is devastating for any family being evicted and I don’t know any situation worse than losing your home and being forced onto the streets, but it is only going to get worse and the problem is only going to get worse.”

Cllr Marianne Rixson said she was deeply worried by the rise in demand, adding that she was appalled the ban on evictions was being lifted when heading into the winter months.

Cllr Paul Millar said the council should write to MPs to try and get the decision reversed as ‘lifting the ban on evictions will have an awful effect as pandemic isn’t going away’.

Cabinet members agreed to a request for funding to increase staffing levels within the council’s housing team.

They also backed writing to MPs and the Government to lobby them to reinstate the ban on evictions.

The meeting also heard of the plight of a homeless man who has been sleeping rough in the shelter in Phear Park in Exmouth for the last two months.

Resident Gillian Adamson said she has been taking him sandwiches and fruit on a daily basis, while Exmouth Friends in Need has donated clothing and shoes.

She added: “I took these items to him and he was very grateful as he wouldn’t accept money from me.”

But she said that the council is refusing to house him and its housing team had warned her not to approach the homeless man.

She said: “Why is he being refused housing by EDDC? I am desperately worried about him so please can the housing department help him rather than ignore him?”

Cllr Olly Davey said that he was aware of the rough sleeper, had spoken to him, and shared the same concerns.

Cllr Megan Armstrong, portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, said that she understood the housing department was dealing with the case.

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East Devon unemployment rate could soar to 10% in the next six months, district council chiefs are warned