It seems a long time since the Communities Scrutiny Committee discussed housing, twelve days to be precise, and as is the norm Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor (Erith) was first in with the questions.
• There has been a reduction in [the numbers in] temporary housing but where has everyone gone? Have we discharged our duties to them?
• How many have gone because of the one single offer and you’re out policy?
• In June 2021 3,219 people asked for advice on temporary accommodation and in that month only 15 were accepted as homeless. “An explanation for those figures please.”
Answers came there none except that some applicants had been referred to affordable housing schemes and not all advice requests are from people requiring immediate rehousing. Some are fraudulent from people owning homes outside Bexley and others are sub-letting. One was found to be using his temporary accommodation as a storage facility while he lived with his family.
The Deputy Director said that many problems were caused by staff shortages, only four in place out of a required ten - and whose fault is that one might ask? Councillor Taylor said the only solution was a greater supply of housing.
Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, East Wickham) wondered if the temporary housing at Homeleigh was in a better state now than when she visited a few years ago and why L & Q is sitting on land for which they have planning permission.
Once again some of the lack of answers was blamed on staff shortages - “it has slipped” - with the icing on the cake being the pressure put on the system by asylum seekers. Homeleigh was closed due to Covid but is undergoing £40,000 of refurbishment work.
The Housing Associations are all falling behind with their repairs and maintenance programme because of budgetary considerations. The cost of Housing Associations going carbon neutral is estimated at £98 billion in London alone. That’s Billions with a B.
Nothing can be done about Housing Associations sitting on land.
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) said she knew of a disabled man unable to get up a single step who has been offered a second floor flat with no lift in Brixton. He has fallen foul of the one offer rule and is abandoned by Bexley Council unless Mabel can successfully plead his case. He is one of many victims of a callous and uncaring Council.
Mabel was told that one offer and out is common across all London Councils. (I know it was not in Newham fewer than two years ago because my aunt’s carer benefited from it.)
I could barely believe that the Deputy Director for Housing told Mabel that homeless people abandoned by Bexley Council can always go to Judicial Review if they are unhappy!