Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) has warned of a “risk” of a higher level of evictions across the borough in the coming months.

Councillor Phil Bundy, the council’s portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, warned that private landlords and housing associations will begin to evict residents of their properties following the removal of government restrictions during the pandemic.

Addressing TVBC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, he said: “It seems reasonable to assume there is a clear potential for higher levels of evictions and cases begin to come through the courts in the remainder of 2021/22.

“While evictions fell during the pandemic, there is a risk landlords will catch up over the coming months and we will experience a higher level of evictions.

“A lot of the work we’re doing will help to prepare us for this, but there isn’t any magic wand beyond a proactive housing team and working with partners to mitigate that risk.”

He told the meeting that it had been “an unbelievably busy year” for housing teams at TVBC, following the challenges introduced by the pandemic. One of these was placing homeless people brought in by the government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme, while shared emergency accommodation was limited due to Covid restrictions and hotels were closed.

Cllr Bundy said the council housed nearly 90 single homeless people in and outside Test Valley, and was “working actively to deliver settled housing” for them. He said, however, the pandemic had also sped up changes to the way housing teams work in the area.

“The pandemic has accelerated some of our plans to work with the wider system to influence it to do a better job with people who find themselves sleeping rough,” he said. “While we can offer accommodation, people with entrenched mental health and drug problems may be unwilling to come inside, or maintain accommodation if they accept it.

“We’re actively working with a range of partners to increase access to services such as mental health support.”

He said the council had also made “considerable progress” on its housing priorities, with 296 new affordable homes delivered, as well as 60 at a “social rent”. The team also hopes to standardise affordable housing agreements with developers to make this process more consistent in future.

The news follows a report from the poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which said that over 800,000 households were worried about being evicted in the coming months. It surveyed 10,000 households, finding many were concerned that they would be evicted following the end of an eviction ban.

Rachelle Earwaker, from the charity, said: “High levels of arrears are restricting families’ ability to pay the bills and forcing many to rely on hidden borrowing.

“This is not only deeply unjust, it is also economically naive and risks hampering our economic recovery, which is reliant on household spending increasing as society continues to reopen.

“The Government’s decision to provide a generous tax break to wealthier homeowners through the stamp duty holiday while failing to protect renters points to a worrying two-tier recovery in which those who were prospering prior to the pandemic will continue to do so while those who have been hit hard will sink even further behind.

“The cost of boosting support to tackle rent arrears is a fraction of the cost of the stamp duty holiday.”