As the cost of living continues to soar, councils in Kent have reached an important milestone in their campaign to prevent homelessness as a result of Covid-19.
Local Authorities have now given out almost £1.5m of the funding allocated to the county to help tackle rent and mortgage arrears that have built up as a direct result of the pandemic.
The fund saw each of the 12 Local Authorities in Kent, including Thanet, awarded £175,000, thanks to a successful bid by Kent Housing Group to Kent County Council for the government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF).
Sharon Williams, Chair of Kent Housing Group, which is a forum for housing organisations in Kent and Medway, said: “It’s no secret that times are hard, so to have distributed almost £1.5m really shows how important this funding is.”
Councils are focusing this money on supporting the prevention of homelessness of private rented sector tenants, however there is help available for other forms of tenure, including social housing and owner-occupiers, to enhance the existing processes that are in place for these households.
Examples of how the funding has been used include the self-employed and individuals who lost work at the start of the pandemic, for instance through redundancy or the inability to work, such as taxi drivers and caterers; three generations who were helped to keep the family home; and an evicted tenant who benefitted from funding to help them secure new accommodation.
One family had found themselves with rent arrears of nearly £8,000 after redundancy and furlough saw them struggle to keep up with living costs.
They said: “I am mortified that it got this bad and I was shocked at how quickly things got totally out of control. We were just buying the absolute essentials like food and heating. I was terrified of talking to the housing association… I got so low I attempted suicide. Because we’d always worked, we didn’t understand the benefits system but we finally made a claim for Universal Credit. We told them about the mess we were in with our rent and asked them to pay the landlord directly in future.
“I was so relieved when I heard about COMF, and that we could pay the rent arrears and save our home. With the support of the fund I know I can keep a roof over my kids’ heads and I hope that gradually our life will get back to normal.”
More examples of how the funding has helped can be seen at https://supportforkentlandlords.co.uk/home/how-weve-helped/. The website also includes advice for landlords.
Sharon Williams added: “No one wants to get into debt or be at risk of losing their home so we are pleased to have been able to already use so much of this money to help keep people in their homes.”
In total £1.44m has been spent so far. The COMF funding must be used by 30 June 2022 but ongoing support will be available after this time.
Sharon Williams added: “Although this particular funding has a time limit, councils across Kent will continue to have dedicated staff available to help landlords resolve difficulties with their tenants. They can help negotiate to find solutions and can advise on everything from tackling anti-social behaviour and tenants not looking after a property to requesting direct benefit payments.”
For more information, visit www.supportforkentlandlords.co.uk.