Council houses not councillors’ houses

7 Oct

Campaigners leaving the Carpenters Estate

Campaigners leave the Carpenters Estate with their heads held high (pic via @hackofalltrades)

Under increasing pressure from a flood of bad press and a Standards Committee investigation that won’t go away, Sir Robin has re-tooled his half-hearted apology to the Focus E15 mums into a column for the Guardian

After a bit of grandstanding about his ‘victory’ in winning back possession of the four perfectly habitable flats he’d left empty for years, the mayor turns his attention to the causes of the housing crisis:

The lack of housing supply, the Conservative government’s barbaric benefit bashing and the private rented sector’s spiralling rents and declining standards are a triple whammy.

Of course, he doesn’t mention his own personal contributions: NewShare, his partnership with Countrywide PLC that will flog off council homes in a ‘shared equity’ scheme; Red Doors Ventures, a council-owned development company that will build 3,500 home for private rent – the majority of them at full market rates; the repeated failure of planners to require developers to deliver social housing; the consistent commuting of section 106 obligations into cash payments that vanish into the general budget instead of being spent on housing; the intentional running down of the Carpenters Estate, leaving hundreds of serviceable homes sitting empty. This list goes on and on.

The mayor also glosses over the contribution of many of his Labour colleagues on council who are active in the private rented sector as landlords. They are getting fat from those spiralling market rents and ever-ballooning London property values.

Ayesha Chowdhury, community lead councillor for Beckton, has a portfolio of 18 properties in Newham, 17 of which are rented out. Ahmed Noor (Plaistow S) lists 6 properties in the register of interests; Unmesh Desai, Cabinet Member for Crime and Anti Social Behaviour, owns 5 properties; Mukesh Patel (Green St E) also has 5, as does Anthony McAlmont, chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Rohima Rahman, Forest Gate’s lead councillor, scrapes by with a mere 3 – two she owns and one leased from the council. There are many others who have a couple of properties listed.

As social housing is shut down or sold off and the private sector booms these rentier capitalists are quids in.

Poor Sir Robin: with just one home to his name, must feel a bit left out.

One Response to “Council houses not councillors’ houses”

  1. Landlords October 20, 2014 at 15:43 #

    Your blog should set the record straight on the following point ‘They are getting fat from those spiralling market rents and ever-ballooning London property values.’.

    Firstly, it is correct market rents have gone up. However, it does not mean private Landlord are increasing rents on an annual basis for sitting tenants. The ONS (Office of National Statistics) proved this. New tenants will pay the market rent when they move in, but on subsequent years they enjoy no rent increases. Otherwise, what incentive is there for the tenant to stay in the property? Why pay commission again to a letting agent to find new tenants. It is hard to attract good tenants to Newham.

    Secondly, those with housing benefit tenants, will note Housing Benefit no longer tracks ‘market rents’. It used to track the 50th percentile of local market rents (it meant 50% of the properties were available to the tenants). Then it went down to the 30th percentile, then the Government decided Housing Benefit will go up by 1% per annum (although it was frozen in 2012-2013). Despite all hammering on housing benefit, people focus on market rents. There is a sizeable gap building between the rent afforded by housing benefit tenants and private working tenant.

    Yet you don’t see private landlords throwing their housing benefit tenants onto the streets in favour of private working tenants who can afford to pay more. If this were happening, Newham’s housing benefit bill would be £0.00! Yet there has been a scandalous campaign against private landlords.

    The last Labour government compounded matters further, by introducing the LHA scheme in 2008. It meant instead of the letting agent / landord receiving directly from the Council . Now the tenant receives the housing benefit directly into their bank account. The tenants are supposed to pay rent to their landlord or letting agency, but tenants often cannot budget their finances, don’t know when the money is coming in or spend the money on other things. Letting Agents are frustrated, since they can no longer speak to the Council and the tenant keeps their phone off. Routinely,arrears reach thousand of pounds.

    This is why many Landlords / Letting Agents no longer wish to accept new housing benefit tenants. This is why Focus E15 mum, will find it hard to find private rental properties in Newham.

    The LHA was introduced in 2008, is a scheme designed to rip-off private landlords. Council and Housing Associations still get their rent paid directly and they have their rents increasing by 6 or 7% per annum.

    Despite, this and the other issues faced by Landlords, most are muddling through the situation

    Landlords have been subject to ridicule and smearing e.g. slum landlord.

    In Newham, they decided it would help matters by Licensing all private Landlords. I am not entirely sure, how handing over £500 to Newham Council has improved my property. Some 30,000 landlords applied for licenses.

    No one with a shed has applied for a license!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: