Tuesday 5 December 2023

Brent moves to remove 'Landlord Offer' from homeless moved into void properties on South Kilburn. Lettings Policy consultation will be required.



The above video was posted on Twitter yesterday revealing the state of Blake Court on the South Kilburn Estate. @DCustodians said:

Welcome to #BlakeCourtThis the airy 4th floor. Recently redecorated to a high standard by squatters. Just needs a do not disturb sign. Tenants are a bit inconvenienced, work/school and all but who are we to complain?

A picture of an an attempted break-in and soiled lift were also posted:

I thought it was appropriate to publish these images in the light of the Housing Report going to Brent Cabinet on Monday. The report includes a section on South Kilburn where it is proposed that some voids (empty properties) on the estate are brought into use as temporary accommodation. 

The fact that only 52  of 534 properties are considered suitable is in itself telling and clearly it is not just the flats themselves that need to be suitable - safe, clean - but the surrounding 'unsuitable flats', staircases, lifts and security that needs to be considered. 

Wembley Matters has revealed the £13m deficit in the housing budget caused by the rising number of homeless people in temporary hotel accommodation or expensive private rented placements.  LINK The council hopes to save on the average £3,000 a night for the 52 households:

There are currently 534 void properties across the South Kilburn regeneration site as households have either been moved into new or alternative homes, or leasehold properties have been bought back. Due to the increased demand for temporary accommodation and rising hotel costs, an exercise has been carried out to assess the suitability of South Kilburn voids for use as temporary accommodation.

However, there is a fly in the ointment. Brent Council want to avoid the 'Landlord Promise' made at the time of the South Kilburn Regeneation Ballot, applying to these households (my highlighting):

Of the 534 voids, 52 have been identified as suitable for potential use. This is based on their condition and the impact of using them on the regeneration programme. These are based in John Ratcliffe, William Dunbar, William Saville, and Zangwill. Historically, those living in temporary accommodation on the regeneration site were included in the South Kilburn Promise (Landlord Offer), which commits to re-housing temporary accommodation residents within South Kilburn, with the option to move outside of the estate (with the household’s agreement) along with other commitments. This was specifically for those impacted at the time of the ballot. If these voids are used for temporary accommodation, this report recommends that the South Kilburn Promise does not apply going forward. This implications of this proposal on the 2019 ballot outcome have been discussed with the Greater London Authority and no implications were identified.


The rational[e] for the promise not applying going forward to temporary households, is largely based on these households bypassing the choice-based lettings scheme, where other households have waited for years for family sized accommodation. Additionally, these households will not have been impacted by the regeneration scheme in the way those involved with the ballot.

This proposal does create a risk that temporary households will need to be decanted elsewhere, most likely away from the estate, when blocks are due to be demolished. Plus, there will be two tiers of temporary accommodation on the site, those who are eligible for the South Kilburn Promise and those who are not. This risk however is balanced by the immediate reduction in pressure for the Council as moving 52 households out of their current temporary accommodation and into South Kilburn would save the Council approximately £3,017 a night based on the average nightly rate paid and subsidy loss currently being covered by the Council. The use of these void properties has wider benefits to the overall wellbeing of households currently facing homelessness, many of whom are having to be placed outside of the borough which ultimately affects schooling and work.  


There is another pitfall in that the council is required to consult on any change in its Lettings Policy in order to amend the Landlord Offer.:


 To amend the South Kilburn Promise (Landlord Offer) for new temporary accommodation tenants, the Council is required to amend the Local Lettings Policy (allocations scheme) which requires consultation. The Council is currently seeking legal advice on how to consult and once obtained, this will guide officers to carry out the relevant consultation ahead of any decision being finalised.


The council had to open up bidding for council properties to homeless people after a legal judgement in 2021-22 when a teenager took them to court.  LINK That was the last change in the lettings policy. It is likely that South Kilburn residents, especially those waiting for accommodation on the estate, presently in accommodation outside the area, in temporary accommodation or decanted temporarily while waiting to be permanently housed in new build will be very wary of any change in the South Kilburn Promise. If it can be done once for one group, could it be withdrawn later for another group?


This will depend to some extent on residents perception of progress on the whole South Kilburn Regeneration.   A letter to Wembley Matters in November outlined the problems in terms of delivery and impact on those waiting to be rehoused. LINK


There are ongoing problems with defects to properties with L&Q one of the most notable and the ongoing Granville New Homes debacle where the cost of remediation is now put at £25m (against that budget gap of £13m) having been purchased for £17.1m by the council. Still no news on any council move for compensation from the builder. LINK


A veteran observer of the South Kilburn scene was asked for their view by Wembley Matters in the light of the latest news:


If the council were were to hold another ballot, would all those in temporary accommodation still vote yes if they were told they would not be getting a new home in South Kilburn for at least 10 years and that some of them would have to move into old blocks waiting to be demolished while they wait.

Although there are 730 households in temporary accommodation, we do not know how many of them have a South Kilburn connection but at the last consultation the ones that had it were promised a new home soon if they voted yes.

There are 370 secure council tenants waiting for a new home today and we will find out soon the exact numbers in each of the 7 blocks left and when they might be decanted.

But the next batch of new homes are for secure council tenants from both  Craic and Crone Court and there are none for those in temporary accomodation. Of course the council could  change their allocation policy to favour those in temporary accommodation but this is most unlikely.

There should be some more new homes available in 2029 which were for those in phases 7 and 8 but now they might go to those currently in temporary accommodation. I am not sure how many new homes will be available but there will be fewer than 100 and by then because of possible financial issues, many of the homes could be sold, or become shared ownership homes.

But with only 70 new homes available in 2029 and around a 1000 households expecting to get one of them, most of them are going to be disappointed.

I wonder if Osbornes Law will be interested in the new proposals?



Anonymous said...

Brent council is excellent at making false promises and collecting votes. Delivery wise its a different story. This is unacceptable to make people live like this.

Anonymous said...

When you are billed mote in electricity than what others pay for rent you know there is a problem. Look at the state of these buildings. Best environment for drug dealers, burglars and other criminals. No more cleaning a no fixing communal lights. Stairs are oitch black. Utility rooms have been taken over and a child can easily be dragged in there and abused. Those of us with children coming back from school alone this is a nightmare. Absolutely disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

It is unlawful to let people live in properties unfit for human habitation.
This duty is in section 9A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which was inserted by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
Tenants should take the council to the cleaners.

Anonymous said...

Considering the South Kilburn landlord's offer, I find it intriguing how this initiative combines a new tailor-designed home with a £6800 incentive yet people are still moaning. It's undoubtedly a positive step toward enhancing living conditions.

When discussing individuals like Shadacia White at 18, claiming to have spent years sofa surfing, there's a valid point about encouraging personal responsibility.

A Labour perspective can still uphold the value of personal responsibility as encouraging self-sufficiency aligns with Labour's commitment to empowering individuals. For each according to need and healthy 18 year olds claiming council housing deprives those in real need.

Pete Firmin said...

While the promise to rehouse in South Kilburn was made to temporary residents yo win their support in the ballot mentioned, such a promise dates from the start of regeneration (2004) for all council tenants moved by regeneration. There is evidence that that promise has been broken many times. Just like many other things we were promised as part of regeneration (no more tower blocks, a new health centre by 2019 - now expected in 2025) it has been shown to be not worth a damn. Add to that the many problems with many of the blocks built under regeneration (cladding, heating, mould etc) the whole scheme hasn't got a lot going for it. Not for residents, though builders and estate agents are making a killing and planners and architects can boast about the awards received for the outward appearance of the new blocks. Never mind how they are for residents. And brent Council will continue to deny any problems. The temporary residents should insist that Brent sticks to what it promised. As the saying goes, Brent has made a rod for its own back, residents shouldn't be expected to bail them out.