The sixth of the series of slide presentations to Bexley’s Scrutiny Committee
was by the Deputy Director for Public Protection, Housing and Public Realm. (Good news! There are no more slides.)
This being the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, David Bryce-Smith confined his report to Housing. It detailed an almost universally depressing view of the housing situation in Bexley - and to be fair pretty well every borough is in a bad way too.
Mr. Bryce-Smith did little more than read his slide show the main points of which were
His remit covered three areas, “homelessness, housing allocation and private sector housing”. (Slide 1.)
The major factor in the first of these is the “decline in social housing stock” (Slide 2) and as for so called affordable housing “it has tended to be shared ownership”. (Slide 3.)
The number of people in temporary accommodation is far outstripping the number of homes available to rent (Slide 4) and 46% of the homeless are in employment. (Slide 5.)
The main cause of homelessness is “a big rise in evictions from the private rented sector followed by exclusion from home by parents and friends. Nearly three quarters of homelessness”. (Slide 6.)
Only about 5% of landlords are ‘professional’, that is making their living from it and most own only one property. (Slide 7). Housing Benefit is not high enough to pay the rents charged in Bexley. (Slide 8.) This in turn leads to evictions and the increase in homelessness.
From October all rented premises in Erith, Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and Lower Belvedere will have to be licenced in addition to HMOs right across the borough. (Slide 10.)
A range of initiatives are being implemented to hopefully reduce the various problems; these include working with other boroughs, converting temporary accommodation into private rented accommodation and reviewing the Housing Allocations Policy. (Slide 11.) However Universal Credit is likely “to be a challenge”.
Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) enquired about that review; “is there a time limit, for when it has got to be done by?” The answer was that because of statutory changes the existing policy “is not fully compliant and we are looking to review it this year”.
Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) asked if there had been any consultation with the National Landlords’ Association over the HMO licensing. “It [liaison] has been close” replied Mr. Bryce-Smith.
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked about the rules relating to shared ownership and was told that Bexley residents were prioritised for three months but if no buyer was found it would be more widely advertised, but recently most have gone to local residents.