Local councils across the country have been increasingly called upon to come up with new ways to alleviate the housing crisis during a time where the government is cutting funding to them. Therefore, many have had to make decisions that have proved unpopular, such as building on green belt land or cutting funding to certain projects in order to invest in housing projects. Now, Lambeth council is being criticised for its plan to sell off their remaining short-life properties in order to invest the money into new properties.
Lambeth is one of the few areas in England left that still has short-life housing, which is generally dilapidated or sub-standard property that was bought in the 1970s by councils who planned regeneration projects. Unfortunately, funding for most of these projects fell through, and because the properties were of such poor standard they were not allowed to be sold on or rented out at market value. Therefore, councils deemed these properties ‘short-life’ houses that people were allowed to live in for little or no rent at all.
Currently, Lambeth council has fifty short-life properties left in their constituency, and as they currently have a £46 million deficit for the amount they need to bring all the current council houses up to a good standard, they are planning on evicting those that are living in the short-life properties and selling them on. Discussing the plans, cabinet member for housing and regeneration, Peter Robbins, said: “The government has provided just £93m in backlog decent homes funding – less than 20% of the total required. Some of the short-life properties are worth £2m, which alone would bring 150 to 200 properties up to standard. Putting on our accountants’ hats these are very clearly under-used assets that we can realise.”
However, Labour MP Kate Hoey has said that the plans are unfair and that instead “they should mount a campaign to get the government to give them more money, not sell the roofs over people’s heads. It’s just not fair. The big issue in Lambeth is a shortage of housing, a long waiting list and a lot of people living in crowded housing. They’re selling off stock that they could have brought back.” Many landlords are currently struggling when it comes to maintaining properties even with the help of landlords insurance due to the fact that the cost of labour is so expensive and there is increasing pressure on landlords to keep properties well maintained. We shall soon see if Lambeth council goes ahead with their plans, however either way there will be those that will not be pleased with their decision.