Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.
Renters have been ignored in Rishi Sunak’s mini-budget to kickstart the coronavirus-hit UK despite a string of measures to help those who own their own homes.
A stamp duty cut was one of the flagship policies within the chancellor’s extra £30bn-worth of spending, which comes on top of the £122bn already shelled out to tackle the crisis.
Housebuilders welcomed the move, which could save buyers up to £15,000.
But the lack of anything to help the one-in-five UK households who live in private rented accommodation comes as campaigners raise concerns over the ban on evictions ending next month.
Housing charity Shelter estimates around a quarter-of-a-million private renters in England could be at risk of losing their homes.
It said on Wednesday that the chancellor’s statement was a “major missed opportunity” and that changes to stamp duty are “just a distraction”.
“One discounted meal at a restaurant will be cold comfort to those struggling to pay their rent each month and facing the threat of eviction in August.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “In the midst of the the biggest economic downturn in living memory, what we needed from the chancellor today was action, not distraction.
“Unfortunately cuts to stamp duty are just another distraction, as we are facing the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and new homes. Changes to stamp duty are wholly insufficient for the challenge this country is facing.
“Voices from across the political spectrum have been calling for urgent investment in social housing to stimulate housebuilding, protect jobs, and provide urgently needed homes.
“In the face of this mounting crisis we need rapid spending, bringing forward the money already committed to affordable housing to be spent now as a rescue package – not in five years’ time. This is a major missed opportunity by the chancellor.”
Liberal Democrat MP and leadership hopeful Layla Moran said the chancellor has “left renters out in the cold” while handing a £3.8bn stamp duty cut that will “benefit wealthy homeowners the most”
She added: “One discounted meal at a restaurant will be cold comfort to those struggling to pay their rent each month and facing the threat of eviction in August.
“Thousands of hard-pressed families are being pushed into poverty by the heartless two child cap on benefits, but will not see any extra support.
“At the start of this crisis, the chancellor said we will be judged by our capacity for compassion. By failing to provide additional support directly to those who do fall on hard times, this mini-budget shows this government has utterly failed that test.”
Shelter estimates that 227,000 renters across the country have fallen behind with payments and is concerned they could lose their homes when the evictions ban ends on August 23.
People who accrue rent arrears of eight weeks or more can be automatically evicted, in addition to the risk of being subjected to a Section 21 “no fault” eviction.
In his Commons statement, Sunak also unveiled plans for:
- Firms which have furloughed staff will be given a £1,000 bonus to keep workers in jobs.
– Announced an “eat out to help out” plan for dining out in August to boost the hospitality sector, with a 50% discount per head from Monday to Wednesday up to a maximum discount of £10 per diner.
– Slashed VAT on food, accommodation and attractions from 20% to 5% from July 15 until January 12, a tax cut worth up to £4 billion.
– Set out a scheme for firms to be given £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25 and a new bonus of £1,500 for apprentices over that age.
Alicia Kennedy, director of campaign group Generation Rent: “While support for jobs is welcome, people are struggling to put food on the table now and face the threat of losing their home when the eviction ban is lifted next month.
“The stamp duty holiday doesn’t help renters whose incomes and savings have been destroyed by the pandemic and face a further setback to their hopes of buying a home. Right now the government is leaving renters to bear the cost of the pandemic – we need Rishi Sunak to increase Local Housing Allowance, remove the restrictions stopping people from accessing it, and end the rent debt crisis before it causes mass homelessness.”