Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the Welsh Government has taken unprecedented steps to support tenants, preventing them from becoming homeless and supporting them to remain in their homes. In addition to existing support available, this has included:
- Legal measures to prevent evictions from December 2020 to June 2021;
- Legal measures to extend notice periods to six months before court action and eviction can take place in almost all cases – these have now been extended to the end of September 2021;
- £4.1 million to top up Department for Work and Pensions funding for Discretionary Housing Payments, to help those in receipt of housing related benefits who are in rent arrears;
- Funding of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) Debt Helpline to advise and support private sector tenants struggling with rent, income and housing benefits; delivered by Citizen’s Advice Cymru;
- Funding of £166 million to local authorities in 2021-22 through the Housing Support Grant to deliver housing related support services. The services help to prevent people from becoming homeless, stabilises their housing situation, or helps potentially homeless people to find and keep
- Our Tenancy Saver Loan scheme which makes low cost loans available to private sector tenants who suffered a temporary change of income and fell into rent arrears;
- Funding for Shelter Cymru to advise and support
We are mindful that protection from eviction regulations are due to expire today, and I am acutely aware that people continue to face difficulties in paying their household bills and their rent.
Evidence shows that once a tenant is behind with their rent it becomes increasingly difficult for them to catch up with rent arrears without support, with those tenants then being at risk of homelessness, with the trauma this involves. If made homeless, the impact on people and families is huge – including support networks being lost, children having to move school, and families’ mental health and well-being suffering.
In addition to the personal impact of homelessness on adults and children, the cost to public services of dealing with impact of homelessness, rather than preventing it in the first place, is significantly higher.
That is why we have been working on further measures to strengthen support for tenants, and I am pleased today to announce a new form of support, the Tenancy Hardship Grant.
The grant will support private rented sector tenants in Wales who are in significant rent arrears as a direct consequence of the pandemic. Tenants who are not in receipt of housing related benefits, who have fallen behind on their payments by eight weeks or more as a consequence of the pandemic between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021 will be eligible to apply for a grant.
The scheme, worth £10m, will help these eligible tenants to address their rent arrears and help them to remain in their homes.
The Tenancy Hardship Grant will replace the existing Tenancy Saver Loan scheme. I would like to extend my thanks to both the Wales Council for Voluntary Action and the participating Credit Unions for their commitment to supporting tenants in rent arrears through the Tenancy Saver Loan scheme. Tenants who have already taken a Loan through the scheme will have their loan converted to a grant.
People who are eligible for the Tenancy Hardship Grant can register their interest with their local authority from 1 July. Further information on eligibility criteria and application process will be provided shortly to facilitate processing of grant applications from mid-July. I would like to further extend my thanks to local authorities for continuing to work with us, at pace to support people affected by Coronavirus.