BY Cllr Luke Spillman on increasing number of evictions in Thurrock
"SADLY, the figures in Shelter’s research on private tenant evictions come as no surprise to UKIP Thurrock. The rental market in Thurrock has become incredibly overheated. We are working with residents, almost on a daily basis, who can no longer afford to rent privately in Thurrock. As a result, they face eviction.
Residents working on a low income, the unemployed and the disabled are being frozen out of the private rental market. Market rents have risen to such an extent that landlords know that such residents will not be able to afford the rents that they can charge. The Local Housing Allowance (LHA), the maximum rent that will be included within a housing benefit calculation, is now often 10%-30% below market rent value. If you need housing benefit it is becoming incredibly difficult to find a landlord willing to offer you a tenancy. I am not aware of a single letting agency in Thurrock taking on tenants who claim housing benefit.
Landlords are keen to remove existing tenants who they know do not have the money to meet any increase in rent. Demand for housing is such that it is easy for landlords to re-advertise and fill their properties with new tenants able to pay 10%-30% more within days of the property coming onto the market. Adjusting the LHA rate is not the answer. To do so would simply add another inflationary pressure into an already overheated market and lead to further rent increases. Landlords are already taking advantage of Discretionary Housing payments paid by the council to top up housing benefit. This cannot continue.
We are in the midst of an unprecedented and but easily predicted housing crisis. The answer is the same as it has been for the last few decades…..it’s not rocket science. We need to build more houses on brown field sites and build infrastructure to meet the demand for the services these extra homes demand. Yet government after government has failed to take decisive action to address this.
In 2001 Thurrock had 0.41 dwellings per person. In 2015 this had dropped to 0.39. During that period the population has grown by 15.41% and yet housing stock has only increased by 10.18%. The ONS mid-term population statistics estimate that between 2014 and 2015 the population increased in Thurrock by 1,914. To meet that extra demand a net increase of 754 new dwellings was required. Yet the net increase in dwellings in 2015 was just 310.
A successful Brexit would give the UK the tools to control immigration and reduce demand for housing in the future. The UK population is growing at more than 500,000 a year. Immigration control is the only realistic method to reduce this. Only the most deluded or naive supporter of EU membership would argue that this is level of population growth is sustainable from a housing perspective. Yet the Labour Party still hope for a second referendum to keep us in the EU and maintain open door immigration. The Conservative Party show no apparent appetite to deliver lower immigration in their Brexit negotiations. However even reducing demand in the future through immigration controls will not tackle the immediate crisis. We need action now. We need to get real.
Thurrock Council set up the innovative Gloriana project, however this project brings with it considerable risk. The project is in it’s infancy and the jury is still out. At present Gloriana cannot deliver the number of new homes we need. Thurrock Council have been clear that the Conservative government’s policy of 1% council house rent reduction has essentially shelved any future plans for Thurrock Council funded house building. The market has repeatedly failed to provide commercial developers willing to commit to projects that would actually meet Thurrock’s demand.
UKIP Thurrock calls on the government to finally step up to the plate and deliver a genuine capital investment programme that will deliver homes and not simply empty platitudes. Without this many long term residents of Thurrock will soon find themselves forced out of Thurrock just as many Londoners have been forced out of London.
The social cleansing of long standing Thurrock families is a future that all must agree is simply unacceptable.