Sunday 8 January 2012

Taking action on the housing crisis

Following the November housing crisis meeting at the Town Hall which was organised by Barry Gardiner MP for North Brent, Jacky Peacock has circulated the following notes on behalf of the Tenants Steering Group:
Comments and additional ideas on how to take things forward for private tenants are welcomed:




What is wrong
What should we do about it?

Rents are increasing by 5.7% annually -> due to increasing demand in renting properties (fewer people can afford to buy their own)
Excessive rents are pushing poorer individuals out from the capital
On average, the rent for a two-bedroom apartment in London costs 1,600 pounds -> 2.5 times more than in the rest of the UK
As a result, poorer people will be squeezed out from the private market
People spend so much money on rent that they will not be able to afford to buy their own property in many years in the future
Average salary in Brent is 22,000 pounds/year which means that due to the Housing Benefit Cuts, many people will not be able to afford housing in Brent anymore
Young people can’t afford to leave the parental home

It is legally possible to challenge unreasonable rent increases
If people could not afford to live in Brent, they should move out
Rent control - we should not focus on controlling the initial rent, but rather on controlling rent increases

As a consequence, thousands of people will not be able to afford to pay for the rent
Tenants receiving housing benefit comprise about a half of all the tenants living in Brent

Over a third of private rented homes fall below the Decent Homes Standard
Many homes are very energy inefficient
There is a positive relationship between health and adequate living standards 
Tenants suffer from “fuel poverty” -> individuals would rather go to bed to keep themselves warm than pay for the gas because they cannot afford it

Energy poverty needs to be eradicated
Energy bill will stop landlord letting the most energy inefficient homes but not until 2018. We could be campaigning for Government to highlight need for landlords to start improving properties now.

Many private tenants face harassment by their landlord and illegal evictions are common
Letting agents rip off private tenants

Implement the Landlord Accreditation Scheme
Campaign to expose bad practises.
This is the worst housing crisis during the last 80 years
There is no more social housing available in Brent
350,000 individuals have been placed on the Council’s waiting list for social housing
Brent Council found private lets for 548 families last year
The landlord/tenant relationship is weighted heavily in favour of landlords
Why does the private rented sector remain unregulated?
The local authority should have more power over the housing situation
Councillors do not have answers to all the questions
Housing crisis has a negative impact on the education of young people
Brent is focusing its cuts on middle management and will be merging Housing Resource Centre (dealing with homelessness) and Housing Solutions (advice and rehousing into private renting)  Private Housing Services  (deals with enforcement of physical standards) hasn’t been reviewed yet.

The issue of empty houses in Brent -> they could be converted into usable houses

Brent is committed to developing a CPO policy with teeth

Why does not the Council have hostels in Brent?  Good quality hostels for young people used to be appreciated.  They were affordable and provided social life for those who had recently left parental home.
Landlords would listen to the tenants if many people organized themselves into a larger group

Housing & economic growth -  create more jobs in the construction sector
How do we build a consensus on the need for better standards?  Access to a decent home is a basic human right.
Petitions may help to get heard
Letters from bishops get published – can’t we get them on side?
If we all used the social media effectively on this issue we could build a groundswell of opinion – should we organize a workshop to learn how this is done?
How can we influence decision on the Council’s services? 
How could enforcement be made more effective?  Selective Licensing?
We need more events like this one
Can we use the Mayoral election next year to be raising profile of conditions in private renting?
Politicians don’t give enough priority to private rented sector because most private tenants aren’t registered.  Should we mount campaign to increase registration?
Labour Party is in listening mode as it develops its housing policies – how can we take advantage of that?
We need to coalesce with other campaign groups like the National Private Tenants Organisation, Housing Voice, Pro-Housing Alliance, anti-cuts campaigns.

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