Mayor looking to aid both evictees and council’s bottom line

A proposed law change that would see councils help pay skint tenants would also save councils a bundle of money

The financial crisis has put a strain on many Danes, leaving them unable to pay their rent. But the mayor of Copenhagen, Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne), wants to change the law so that the City Council would pay the rent for prospective evictees.

It may sound like foolish economics, but Jensen’s plan could potentially save the city millions of kroner, while helping citizens in acute financial trouble remain in their homes.

That’s because when a person or family are unable to pay their rent and are evicted, it is the responsibility of the council to find them a new place of residence, and to put them up until they do so.

 “We can see that in many cases it’s more expensive to rehouse the citizens that are evicted than it is to help them pay their rent,” Jensen told Politiken newspaper. “I have absolutely no doubts that it will provide considerable savings while assisting a group of citizens that are already struggling.”

And with Copenhagen experiencing a sharp, 78 percent increase of evictions recently, it’s not hard to do the math and figure out that it’s actually cheaper help out residents before they are kicked out.

The City Council, for example, has experienced situations where costs of re-housing a single mother with two children, which includes a three month stay at a crisis centre, have exceeded 180,000 kroner. That money would have paid the average 6,000 kroner a month rent for 30 months, or two and a half years.

The rehousing of an adult in a shelter over three months costs 122,000 kroner, while it costs 93,000 kroner to place an adult in a crisis centre for three months.

The issue also affects a host of other areas. Housing associations and their other residents, for example are forced to foot the bills left behind by evictees, and it’s the councils and tax payers that are left to pay for the rehousing expenses.

But while Jensen’s proposal will help keep struggling families in their homes, he is adamant that the council rent support plan won’t be a gift shop.

Citizens that receive the helping hand must reimburse the council coffers and the council will be able to suspend social benefits if the repayment agreements are disregarded or if there are suspicions of fraud.

”We’ll let the social workers use their skills in each case to estimate how we best can help the citizens without suffering financially,” Jensen told Politiken. “But it will be up to the individual citizen to pay their bills, and naturally we will do what we can to safeguard against fraud.”

Jensen said that the many evictions were a “huge problem” and called for a national strategy to battle modern poverty in Denmark.

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