Protecting rough sleepers and renters: Interim Report Contents


1.Rough sleepers are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Prolonged rough sleeping causes significant impacts on mental and physical wellbeing, as well as increasing a person’s chances of being a victim of crime and making them 17 times more likely to be a victim of violence, according to research by Crisis.1 Women are especially vulnerable, as one in four are sexually assaulted while rough sleeping.2 A recent study found that homeless people housed in London’s hostels are 25 times more likely to die from coronavirus3 than the general adult population.4 This is against a backdrop of increased homelessness deaths: the Office for National Statistics found that 2018 saw the biggest annual increase of deaths, and that estimated deaths in England and Wales had increased by 51% between 2013 and 2018.5 The streets are dangerous at the best of times, and we are far from the.

2.For those fortunate enough to be in accommodation, housing is often their largest expenditure. The evidence so far suggests that, as a group, renters are much more likely to suffer from the immediate economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, compared to homeowners. On average, renters spend more than homeowners on housing;6 have less savings,7 are more likely to work in sectors directly affected by social distancing, are less likely to be able to work with schools closed, and are less likely to be able to work from home.8 The House of Commons Library estimates that around 43% of social renters and 37% of private renters are in relative poverty after housing costs.9 A plethora of studies have shown renters are struggling. Citizens Advice estimated that around 2.6 million private renters at the beginning of April had already missed a rent payment or expect to do so.10 Shelter predicted that 1.7 million renters may be unemployed by the end of July.11 Figures on rent collection from April found that only 44% of residential rent was collected on time, whereas in 2019 the average was 79%.12

3.We set out to explore how these vulnerable groups could be protected against the impact of coronavirus. On 17 April, we launched our inquiry, asking for written evidence on how effective Government support had been so far and what problems still remained.13 We received over 300 responses despite setting a small submission window of only 2 weeks, including surveys from 38 Degrees and Generation Rent of 5,520 and 1,560 renters respectively.14 On Monday 11 May, we held a virtual evidence session with two panels: the first with Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, and Jamie Carswell, Director of Housing and Safer Communities at the Royal Borough of Greenwich, representing London Councils; and the second with the Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Luke Hall MP, along with John Hall, Director of Homelessness at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. We believe the session revealed concerns that require immediate action by Government.

4.Many of the submissions we received were from individuals in precarious circumstances. We thank them for coming forward. Their stories helped us understand how the coronavirus is affecting people’s lives across the country.

5.This interim report sets out what we believe the Government must do as soon as possible to protect rough sleepers and renters. These recommendations are set out in Chapters 2 and 3. In Chapter 4 we indicate what problems still need to be solved, even if the Government takes the action we advise, including on rent arrears and social housing. We do not devalue the importance of these issues, but believe our recommendations provide breathing room to implement longer-term solutions. We will return to them over the coming weeks and months.

1 Crisis, It’s No Life At All, 2016

2 Crisis, It’s No Life At All, 2016

3 The official term for the disease is COVID-19. Coronavirus is a term which applies to a specific group of viruses. However, it has become common to refer to the current diseases as coronavirus, and we use this common approach through our report.

4 From the initial results of a survey, as reported in ‘Fears of ‘catastrophic coronavirus outbreak’ among homeless in hostels’, The Observer, 19 April 2020

6 Resolution Foundation, Inequality Street: Housing and the 2019 general election, November 2019, p8

7 Office for National Statistics, UK private rented sector: 2018, 18 January 2019

8 Resolution Foundation, Housing Outlook Q2 2020, 9 April 2020, Figure 1

9 House of Commons Library, Poverty in the UK: statistics, SN7096, 29 April 2020

10 Citizens Advice (IOC170)

11 Shelter (IOC234)

12 Generation Rent (IOC242)

13 Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) on homelessness and the private rented sector inquiry launched, 17 April 2020

14 Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) on homelessness and the private rented sector: written evidence, 14 May 2020

Published: 22 May 2020