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Ministers hope the scheme will stop “thousands of people” being evicted

A new loan scheme for tenants with rent arrears due to coronavirus has been launched by the Welsh Government.

The £8m Tenant Saver Loan Scheme is for private sector tenants who are not on benefits.

It will not apply to those who were in significant rental arrears before March – when lockdown began.

Housing Minister Julie James said she hoped the scheme would “stop many thousands of people” from being evicted.

She told a news conference it was “hard to put actual numbers” on how many people may seek to benefit from the scheme.

Plaid Cymru said the initiative was “long overdue”, while the Conservatives said the coronavirus pandemic had been a wake-up for the Welsh Government to end homelessness.

Once the loan is accepted, the money will be paid directly to the landlord or agent and tenants will be able to pay back the amount over five years.

The APR level (Annual Percentage Rate) of interest on the loan will be 1%, ministers said, and there will be no maximum amount but the scheme will cover rent arrears only.

The scheme will be managed by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action and be delivered via credit unions.

What happens if a tenant is unable to pay?

The Welsh Government said an initial affordability assessment will consider whether the tenant will be able to pay back the loan long term, but if someone does fall behind on payments it might be possible that credit unions will recover the debt.

“This is not about pushing people into unaffordable debt,” a spokesperson said.

The National Residents Landlord Association said it was “delighted the Welsh Government has listened to what we had to say and consequently adopted our proposals for a tenant loan scheme”.

“These loans will help keep tenants who have been affected by coronavirus in their homes, while supporting landlords reliant on rental income to pay their own bills,” it said.

“We would advise every landlord with a tenant in arrears to make sure they are aware of the new scheme and advise any landlord in receipt of these payments to commit to working with their tenant to maintain the tenancy in the long term.”

Plaid Cymru housing spokeswoman Delyth Jewell called the minister’s announcement a “long overdue commitment to tackling both homelessness and the housing crisis”.

“I look forward to working with Welsh Government and local authorities to ensure that money is targeted where it is needed,” she said.

Mark Isherwood, housing spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives, called for the Welsh Government to introduce legislation to make “housing a basic human right”.

He said: “The crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for public bodies to start addressing weaknesses in partnership working in order to tackle rough sleeping long-term – and they must not be allowed to waste it.”

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