Mead’s solution to housing crisis: evict whistleblowers

Croydon’s housing crisis is so desperate that the council is scouring its property portfolio to find rooms to convert into temporary living space for the borough’s homeless.

Housing posterThe announcement came in written answers at the Town Hall that also revealed that 318 dependent children and 289 households are in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation – many possibly facing appalling conditions, as was highlighted in a Newsnight television investigation earlier this year.

It is understood that, two months on, the London Road hotel featured in the damning broadcast, in which a government minister accused Croydon of acting “doubly illegally”, is still being used by the local council to house homeless families.

Posters across the town centre scream out Croydon Council’s desperate desire for landlords to come forward to help them with the crisis. Unlike letting agencies, the council charges no fees to landlords, who are also offered a cash bonus.

“A review of surplus council buildings is under way to assess the feasibility of converting such properties to temporary accommodation use,” wrote Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of the Conservative group which controls the council, and the cabinet member for housing.

Park groundsmen’s huts, closed public toilets, crematorium buildings and Taberner House are all avenues of investigation.

Dudley Mead: as not seen on TV

Dudley Mead: as not seen on TV

What seems certain not to be providing any solutions to this housing shortage, which had been worsening over several years, will be the building of new council houses. Mead sais that work on a mere 67 units will be underway by March 2014.

But Mead also revealed a dark side, and woe betide anyone else who might dare to be a whistleblower about the illegal shortcomings of our council in future.

Mead and his wife, Margaret, the Terry and June of Croydon politics, who live in comfortable retirement in the south of the borough, between them receive more than £90,000 per year in their council “allowances”.

Yet the senior Croydon Tory showed no shame at all when replying to a question about the action the council was taking to resolve the issues raised by the BBC Newsnight: the homeless young mothers and their children who appeared in the film had been evicted or served with notice to quit, Mead happily replied.

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4 Responses to Mead’s solution to housing crisis: evict whistleblowers

  1. In Shirley there are three properties within a square mile that have been empty for some time, one for longer than four years.

  2. Croydon Council has long-existing powers under Section 17 of the Housing Act 1985, which it has always been reluctant to use, to requisition empty properties and repair them at the owner’s expense to return them to the housing stock.
    These powers have been extended considerably by the Housing Act 2004, under which local authorities are able to create Empty Dwelling Management Orders that could last for 21 years.
    If the council so chose it could take over properties; bring them up to current public-sector housing standards; let them; and recover expenses, including reasonable administration costs, by charging and retaining independently assessed fair rents.
    If it prefered, the authority could pass the management of such properties to a Housing Association for the duration of the orders.
    Depending on the number of empty properties in the borough, you could argue that the housing crisis is of Croydon Council’s own making, since this and previous administrations have not done as much as they might in law to maximise the number of homes available to rent in the borough.
    Instead, successive administrations have allowed themselves to be dazzled by the plans of get-rich-quick developers to build multi-storey rabbit hutches or end-of-the-garden shoe boxes for buyers with more money than sense.
    That market has now evaporated.
    But we are left with a whole range of buildings – particularly in central Croydon – that would convert into pleasant homes: the council is already talking about Taberner House. It could add St George’s House (the former Nestle headquarters); Park House in Park Street; parts of the former Allders department store; Suffolk House in George Street; and a host of empty office buildings between Wellesley Road and the railway.
    Come on Croydon Council – get real!
    It would be good to see a manifesto commitment for 2014 to use these and other legislative initiatives to provide everyone in Croydon who needs one with a decent home.

  3. The homelessness situation in Croydon is hugely understated by official figures.

    When you go door to door you start to realise the number of houses in so many streets that are substandard private lets with a family in each room, and sometimes with more living in out-buildings. Many of these families have not bothered going near the council.

    We have accommodation being built out of the back of shops etc with no proper street lighting or bins space or bin collections (so there is rubbish and rats everywhere). The properties are essentially modern day back to backs with few windows and very poor ventilation – the photographs of slums in old Croydon circa 1900 look better than some of our modern day properties.

    We desperately need a big public house building programme in order to allow families to live decently. Without the prospect of affordable housing we are trapping single men in the position that they will never be able to afford to head up a household, so they have no stake in society. Families that do stay together in expensive private lets are trapped in poverty and insecurity as UK tenancy law is not suited to the needs of families and their budgets are crippled by spiralling rent costs.

    The other advantage of large scale public house building is that it will pump-prime the local economy, get demand going and save us all from a long drawn out depression as the UK experienced in the 1930s.

    In South Croydon Community Association we were highlighting this problem months ago; as the April cap on rents draws closer, the housing crisis gets more acute. There is no economy in the world where the free market provides decent quality affordable housing – just as we did after WW2, we have to go on building homes to enable everyone in our community to be heroes and not exhausted by impossible living conditions.

  4. Charlotte
    I understand your call for a municipal house-building programme, but first we need to sort out some of these slum dwellings before some poor person is killed.

    I assume you have a note of the properties in question. As you describe them, these are Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) for which the local authority has a particular responsibility and powers to match.

    I can’t believe you’re the first person to see this squalor, so I’m surprised and disgusted to learn that Croydon Council has apparently done nothing about it.

    This is a job for a keen MP: to call a complacent local authority to account and demand action against a tight timetable.

    Never mind councillors’ expenses – let’s spend some public money on something really worthwhile.

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