Children’s Commissioner tells Government to requisition Airbnb stays
Homeless families housed by councils in hotels are being evicted over COVID-19
The Children’s Commissioner for England urges Government to allow councils to requisition empty Airbnb properties as short-term rental blocks and hotels that had rooms with cooking facilities to put up homeless families.
Homeless families housed by local councils are reported as being ‘evicted’ from Travelodge hotels as the budget chain shuts down over COVID-19.
Campaigners are already calling for urgent national-level intervention over the evictions.
In a letter to the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, children’s commissioner Anne Longfield wrote: “The government needs to provide local authorities with the resources to source these homes and combined with a clear expectation that homes need to be sourced quickly. I would like to see this combined with clear messaging to landlords: co-operate or the government will act.
“It would be a particular disgrace to have closed down apartments – many run by businesses which will be receiving government funds in the next few months – while close by families are homeless.
‘‘I would urge you to commit that any hotel or property business receiving government support, or wage subsidies, in the next few months will have to commit to housing families at cost. If local authorities are supported by the government with both resourcing and clear messaging I believe we can get these families a decent home to call their own – at least for the next four months.”
Travelodge, which takes millions from councils for housing homeless families, has told residents it was temporarily closing its hotels ‘until further notice’.
The chain has sent letters to all residents asking them to leave as soon as possible as they were “temporarily closing the hotels until further notice”.
These letters reference “Government advice” as the reason why.
But closure is seen as contravening Government guidance saying hotels serving a temporary accommodation locations should not shut.
Campaigners are call the chain’s actions “irresponsible and immoral”.
One council housing worker tweeted: “Travelodge gave us four hours’ notice to find alternative accommodation for our clients. One was 84 years old. Luckily we managed to find other rooms by the skin of our teeth. Now no backup for out of hours or hospital discharge if other hotel chains closed. This is only wk 1!”
In Milton Keynes, homeless people gathered at the council’s civic offices having been ejected from rooms at Travelodge and Jurys Inn hotels.
Chains such as Travelodge charge councils for providing emergency accommodation for homeless families waiting to be placed in more suitable temporary accommodation.
An anonymous council housing officer tweeted: “This week/last week has been hell on earth. Housing Advice Services were drowning before coronavirus, now it is actually critical. Illegal evictions, loss of TA and families evicting in numbers I’ve never seen before. Loss of Travelodge is devastating.”
A spokesperson for Travelodge said: “Travelodge has been obliged to commence the temporary closure of its hotels in line with the instructions from the government on 24 March 2020.
“We do expect to remain open in selected critical locations across the country to support accommodation for emergency workers and other groups.
“We are reviewing daily which hotels are best positioned to support the needs that arise with the government while ensuring we comply with the new restrictions in place to protect the public.”
There are fears, too, that closures of caravan parks will cause similar problems.
This was raised in the House of Lords with Lib-Dem peer Lord Redesdale saying asking what plans Government had made to ensure that residents in holiday or caravan parks who are self-isolating due to COVID-19 are not adversely impacted by closure.
For the Government, Baroness Barran said “the public should remain in their primary residences – nobody should become homeless as a result of coronavirus.”
“It is important that the residents of these parks stay in their accommodation and do not go out unless it is absolutely essential to do so,” she said.