News: Suspend all rents now, says union- and council-funded think tank

Mon, 18 May 20

A foundation which receives substantial funding from trade unions and a charity linked to the Nationwide is calling for rents to be completely suspended during the virus crisis.

The New Economics Foundation is a think-tank and in a contribution to The Guardian its head of housing and land, Joe Beswick, says private renters are “fearing for the future” because the moratorium on evictions has not yet been extended beyond June.

Berwick writes that “the most efficient and effective method to prevent looming evictions in a fair way is to temporarily suspend rents.” 

He continues: “These measures should be matched by a genuine mortgage freeze (that prevents interest from accruing), alongside income protection for those landlords who might otherwise fall below a basic standard of living, and low-interest loans to mortgage providers from the Bank of England to maintain liquidity in financial markets. This package would prevent renters racking up arrears during the nadir of the jobs crisis, while also supporting landlords and banks in a cost-effective way.”

The New Economics Foundation lists its funders on its website, and one of the largest - £95,648 - is the Nationwide Foundation, set up in 1997 and receiving donations from the Nationwide. 

The NEF also receives £56,000 from the TUC, Communication Workers Union and UNISON combined. It also receives £116,211 from the Greater London Assembly.

Beswick says recent Labour Party proposals - calling for, amongst other things, tenants being given two years to pay off arrears run up during the virus crisis - may not be enough. 

He claims such a move “involves plunging tenants into debt to protect landlords’ income streams”.

Instead he writes in The Guardian: “If we are to protect renters, we need to solve the problem of rent.”

The NEF wants the temporary suspension of all private rents and “the policy should be unwound gradually, alongside restrictions on rent increases (to prevent excessive clawback from landlords) and increased housing benefit.”


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