MP namechecks Joe Biden in bid for cheap rents during coronavirus

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich South, spoke out in favour of rent unions. Photo: Neil Didsbu

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich South, spoke out in favour of rent unions. Photo: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

An MP has namechecked US presidential hopeful Joe Biden in his support for a policy that could help private tenants get cheaper rent during coronavirus.

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich South, spoke out in favour of rent unions, which would see private tenants calling for cheaper tenancies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He described the policy as “very acceptable” and growing in popularity across the Atlantic.

It comes after Democratic nomination frontrunner Mr Biden called for rent payments to be cancelled in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Mr Lewis declared his support for the policy at a virtual event held by pressure group Positive Money, earlier this week, where he said the additional cost of paying off rent arrears could be “the difference between eating and not eating” for some people.

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Mr Lewis said: “If you are struggling to pay rent due to Covid-19, join a rent union and declare what it is you can afford to pay without losing out on food or bills.

“What you’re saying is, I want to pay my rent, I don’t want to get into arrears, and I don’t want to be evicted.

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“This is what I have left to pay my rent.”

He added: “I think that is very acceptable. I think now we’re having Joe Biden coming out in the United States and stating that people on low incomes shouldn’t be paying the rent they owe back.

“No one asked for Covid-19, no one asked to be furloughed or to lose their job.

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“I’m supporting unions because when it comes down to it, the government do need to support landlords - they should be able to apply for support.

“But there are far more private sector tenants who can’t take the same hit.

“There are some landlords who make a very comfortable level of income while they’re asleep.

“Good for them but there are people who can’t afford to eat because they pay rent to these people - that shouldn’t be happening.”

And Mr Lewis said he was concerned about the prospect of a rise in homelessness.

“We have a homeless problem as it is,” he said.

“The city council do all they can to house people, but if people end up on the streets, it’s often the result of evictions.”

• What do you think about rent unions? Email

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