Hackney Green Party calls for rent arrears to be wiped clean amid coronavirus crisis

Zoë Garbett, Hackney Green Party organiser. Picture: Submitted by Hackney Green Party

Zoë Garbett, Hackney Green Party organiser. Picture: Submitted by Hackney Green Party - Credit: Archant

Hackney activists are calling for snowballing rent arrears to be cleared in light of the coronavirus crisis.

The Hackney Green Party has written a letter to Hackney mayor Philip Glanville, Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott and Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier asking for any rent debt built up by tenants during the pandemic to be cancelled.

It calculated the average private renter on furlough will accrue £952 in rent arrears over four months.

Zoë Garbett, Hackney Green Party organiser, said people are in danger of being forced into homelessness.

“Many private renters were already living precariously prior to the lockdown, with the average renter paying out 59 per cent of their salary in rent,” she said.

“When finances are as tight as this, it’s no surprise that many are finding themselves going into arrears with their landlord.”

The London Renters Union is echoing this call for a rent arrears amnesty.

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In the letter, Zoë blames the Labour Party for “backtracking on commitments” to support tenants.

Hackney mayor Philip Glanville pointed to its #BetterRenting campaign: “We’ve made a strong call to the government to extend the eviction ban and deliver a long-term plan to protect the many renters who are suffering financially during the pandemic, and to landlords in Hackney to treat their tenants with respect, flexibility and understanding, especially those most at risk.

“We cannot afford for the private-rented sector to return to business as usual after the pandemic, let alone during it, and the more people joining us in putting pressure on the government for improved protection and greater affordability for private renters the better.”

A spokesperson from Hackney Labour said: “There can be no doubt as to Hackney Labour’s deep commitment to rent regulation as part of the long-term answer to the problems of spiralling rents for private renters.”

He pointed to its 2018 manifesto, which includes aspirations to increase active enforcement of landlords towards better conditions.

“We have championed public housing with affordable rents for decades and it is the cornerstone of our policies.”