Anger Over Westminster Moving Social Housing Tenants to Borough

Council has bought 24 flats from commercial developer near civic centre

Central House on Lampton Road

Central House on Lampton Road

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Hounslow Council has reacted furiously after being informed that Westminster City Council has purchased 24 flats in the borough for their social housing tenants.

Conservative controlled Westminster has paid an undisclosed sum to Galliard for the one and two bedroom flats in an office block on Lampton Road not far from the civic centre which is being converted to residential use. The marketing material for the flats in Central House describe them as having ‘a chic designer kitchen with fully-integrated appliances and a video entryphone security system, guaranteeing the ultimate in comfort and luxury for each resident.’ Galliard’s web site says the development is now fully sold. It is not clear if private purchasers were informed that the block would be used for social housing tenants.

The central London council say that they have 4,400 households on their waiting list for social housing so have been forced to acquire units outside the borough. Westminster told the Independent newspaper that the actual amount spent was commercially sensitive but confirmed that it was ‘ a significant amount of money’. A local estate agent has estimated that the cost would have been in excess of £2 million.

Leader of Hounslow Council Steve Curran told the Independent that he had been approached by Westminster several years ago about the possibility of them building social housing in the borough but the request had been declined.

He said, “We’ve got our own housing crisis; we don’t need to deal with anyone else’s. What we are concerned about is the pressure it puts on our other services, such as schools and the health service, as we haven’t got a clue who they are going to send here. The first I knew about this purchase was when I received the cabinet decision.”

Westminster denies this saying that it had been in discussions with Hounslow Council about the plan ‘on an open and ongoing basis’.

A letter has been sent to Westminster protesting about the plan but it is believed there is nothing that Hounslow can do to stop it.

The scheme is being developed under ‘permitted development rights’ which allows commercial property to be converted to residential use without the need for planning permission. The Council is now planning to bar developments of this nature but it will take over a year for the new regulation to come into effect.

Ruth Cadbury, the shadow housing minister and MP said: “For some years now London authorities have had a cross-party agreement not to push housing problems from one borough to the next. Westminster seems to be in complete contravention of that.

“I think they are trying to pass the buck, they are trying to cleanse central London of people on low incomes – which is an issue for those communities but also for the central London economy – and then they are imposing more pressures on outer London.”

She that the problem was a result of the national Government’s housing policy and that local authorities should have the financial powers to build their own homes.

Westminster Council have dismissed her claim that it violates the agreement between London councils on the rehousing of homeless families saying that it only applied to homeless families who needed temporary accommodation. They also say that no compensation will be paid to Hounslow as the new residents would be council tax payers entitled to use the borough’s services

Daniel Astaire, Westminster Council’s cabinet member for Housing who approved the decision, said, “Westminster is continuing to facilitate, purchase and build as many affordable homes as possible inside the borough. Despite this, it is not always possible to house everyone in Westminster; people can wait for 10 years or more for social housing here. Purchasing 24 high-quality new homes in Hounslow is an innovative way of meeting this demand and providing people with a stable home more quickly.”

Galliard Homes have declined to comment.

December 16, 2016

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