Friday 18 November 2011

Brent's Housing Crisis under the spotlight on Sunday

Victoria Hall in Wembley Park under construction - now occupied
Martin Cheesman, former Brent Director of Housing, warned more than a year ago that housing benefit cut would hit local families hard, with many families unable to afford the rents of housing in the area.

The cap comes into effect early next year but families are already being given notice to quit by private landlords and are having to be move into temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfast placements in hotels. The Brent Budget report to be discussed by the Council on Monday predicts this will make a significant impact on Brent's already depleted budget. Some families are having to move to Milton Keynes or even Birmingham to find affordable housing with a disruptive impact on the children's education.

Single people, and especially the vulnerable, will be badly hit by the Cap and will be required to share accommodation as Housing Benefit will not be enough to pat the rent on a one bedroomed property in the area.

The problem is compounded by developers reluctance to build affordable housing in the current economic and they have switched investment to other areas included the building of student accommodation in the Wembley Stadium area. In all there will be about 2,600 students in the Stadium area, about 10% of the population.

This could, with careful planning, have benefits for the area if amenities are provided locally that students will use and thus benefit the local economy. It could bring some much-needed creative political thinking into the borough, However if their needs are not addressed students will use amenities close to their colleges and Wembley will lose out ,with the blocks becoming little more than dormitories.

This is the accommodation, built, under way or planned: Victoria Hall, Opened September 2011 - 436 places; Quintin iQ, to be completed by Summer 2012 - 660 places; Dexion House - consent granted 14.06.11 - 661 places; Quintain NW Lands Planning Committee approved 12.05.11 subject to Section 106 agreement and GLA approval, 880 place

Clearly though if the building of affordable housing is put on the back-burner by Quintain and other developers, local families already on the waiting list will suffer as well as those made newly homeless. In the Spring council rents in Brent are likely to rise by 7%.

On Sunday Barry Gardiner MP is holding a public meeting on the housing crisis at 3pm on Sunday at Brent Town Hall.  The meeting with examine standards, costs and availability in private rented housing.

The debate on Sunday will discuss the likely impact on vulnerable private tenants in light of the coalition government’s Housing Benefit caps. It will also focus on the impact of current rent rates and housing conditions on low-waged people in work, particularly young people and students, who are finding it increasingly difficult to save for a property of their own as a result of ever increasing rent rates.

Speakers at the event will include Chris Williamson MP, shadow minister for Communities and Local Government, Jacky Peacock, director of the Brent Private Tenants Rights Group, and Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow.

The meeting will start at 3pm in Committee Rooms 1-3.

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