The Association of Community Organisation for Reform Now (ACORN) which is funded through People’s Health Trust using money raised by Health Lottery North East and Cumbria, act as a voice for renters in Newcastle upon Tyne.
The union, active across England and Wales, supports renters to deal with issues ranging from illegal evictions, compensation claims, poor living conditions and contract disputes. Their work plays an important part in tackling health inequalities, which are caused by unequal access to power, money and resources, including unequal access to affordable and good quality housing.
Rising rents, falling wages and unstable local economies all contribute to housing difficulties which lead to both short and long-term health issues. 8.5 million renters experience stress or anxiety and a quarter are made physically sick as a result of their housing situation. The health outcomes associated with poor housing costs the NHS an estimated £1.4bn every year.
In Newcastle, ACORN have helped residents to organise and consolidate community power through the training of case support volunteers who help tenants negotiate with landlords about disrepair, harassment, rent changes and evictions. They now have 30 case support volunteers in the city who can deliver training and education to tenants and new members of the casework team.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the financial and social wellbeing of ACORN’s members. Over the prior 18 months the organisation has had to support members against unfair evictions which have risked people’s immediate health.
Polling commissioned by Generation Rent found that one in 12 private renters had received a no-fault eviction notice, known as a Section 21, during the COVID-19 pandemic. A no-fault eviction notice requires a tenant to leave their property without the property owner needing to provide a reason for the eviction. No-fault evictions inevitably led to rising stress for those impacted during the COVID-19 lockdown and have been a main focus of ACORN’s work.
Tom, an ACORN Development Officer, said:
“When it comes to improving people’s situation, the government has said they would end Section 21 evictions but haven’t done so yet. Section 21 evictions mean people can be evicted by a landlord without a reason. This is the biggest fear of a lot of the people we see, so changing that would improve people’s wellbeing. We’d also like to see people who couldn’t pay their rent because of the pandemic be properly understood and supported by government.”
ACORN Newcastle received £41,586 from People’s Health Trust to support their work in Newcastle. ACORN have also received funding from the Trust to support renters in several other areas across England, including Bristol where it was founded.