Camden may be forced to house more residents outside of the borough if they are made homeless because of the economic woes caused by Covid, a housing boss has warned.
Like the rest of the country, the council is bracing itself for a spike in evictions, with lots of people struggling to make ends meet.
More than 30,000 households in Camden rent their homes from private landlords, and the average rent level in the borough is in the top five highest in the country.
Researchers at LSE London estimate that more than 400,000 private tenants nationally could be in significant rent arrears by the end of the year because of the pandemic.
The end of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments and the halting of the furlough scheme are due at the end of September.
The ban on evictions using bailiffs ended on 31 May. In October, tenants will get two months’ notice to quit, instead of the three months brought in nationally to protect people from homelessness during the pandemic.
Camden’s director of housing support services Rhys Makinson said there has not been a big number of applications for help so far: “It hasn’t happened to the extent I feared previously.”
The council has seen similar numbers of inquiries about potential homelessness in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years, but private renters are reporting higher levels of arrears, which could make it harder to stop them losing their homes.
“This could be the start of a pattern of approaches from people affected by the pandemic, who were previously financially resilient, private renting households,” said Makinson.
He told the housing scrutiny committee, which was looking into the private rented sector, that the council already houses people in private rented properties outside the borough but “mainly in London”.
He warned that if demand increases, the council “may have to look outside” where prices are more affordable.
“At the moment we are not seeing that increase,” he explained.
The council has identifed 197 households renting privately who are at risk of homelessness because of a shortfall between their income and expenditure, including 48 at a crisis level of risk. Ten of them have received help and one landlord has agreed a rent reduction.
Currently the council has 500 families living in temporary accommodation and some of them are outside of the borough.
Makinson mentioned 90 new homes in Highgate and Camden Road, and added: “We need more social housing in Camden – that’s the solution.”
He said the council is also clamping down on rogue landlords and has investigated more than 100 unlicensed homes with multiple occupation over the last two years. Over £500k in civil penalty notices have been handed out and one rogue landlord was banned in 2019.
The Camden Federation of Private Tenants has been offering help to residents to keep their tenancies over the past two years.
The council’s Floating Support Service and the outreach homelessness prevention adviser based at Kentish Town Job Centre Plus also help people worried about paying their rent.