In a long reply on another post on HMOs last week, I concluded with the following paragraphs:
In essence this is where we are at today:
So what’s the likely result? Well You tell me, but what I see is that unless the Council decide to use Article 4, with the liberalised controls, the increased demand for HMOs will be met with an increased supply; the Council's enforcement team will do their best to police HMO quality, but if Council performance on the control of illegal conversions is anything to go by the impact will be limited.
What's the Solution?
I'd like to hear that I'm wrong in drawing the conclusions that I do, but it seems to me that we desperately need Article 4. Other Councils seem to agree. They're applying for it. Haringey say it’s too expensive. What exactly is the cost? I’d like to see the Council’s report on that.
I’ve been told that much of the cost is in the need to apply for the powers. However, in a previous post I quoted the Royal Planning Institute:
“Most importantly the Minister is also advising that councils with policies already limiting HMO development in parts of their locality, can bring in Article 4 Directions straightaway, without notice, to coincide with the national policy change.”
The problem we had with the spread of gambling establishments was principally an issue with national legislation that the Council had little influence on. With this issue, the Council has the power to control the unmanaged spread of HMOs. If five years down the line, the borough is witnessing multiple problems as a result of an explosion of HMOs we will be justified in pointing the finger at the Council as being responsible and justified in holding them accountable for failing to use the powers that are available.
I'm posting here just to check if folk think we should consider applying pressure for Article 4 or just let the fates do their worst?
...and some of these people will end up around here.
I joined Nilgun's working party on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) along with Stuart McNamara who is a Bruce Grove Ward Councillor, when we were elected in May 2010. The discretionary licensing scheme was being developed when we joined, and Nilgun has worked hard to get this moving. I am really pleased that this is now starting for real in the autumn, since the first scheme should provide the template for the rest which could extend across other areas more quickly. In my experience, the whole area of private sector housing - especially as it relates to HMOs, rogue landlords and temporary accommodation - is one of the most pressing problems facing the Council and we need to use as many strategies and powers at our disposal as possible. Lots of departments are involved in this and need to take an active part. A bit of lateral thinking is also helpful in this area.
I am hoping that the discretionary licensing scheme will generate enough income not just to be self-financing but also to fund the recruitment of additional enforcement officers. I have argued for this as I think it is a clear example of both 'invest to save' and 'invest to improve' in an area where there is rightly such enormous public concern.
The HMO group had an extensive report a while ago on Article 4 Directions following a survey done by officers in planning. The authorities mentioned here were all included in the survey. My own view is that the discretionary scheme and moving towards an Article 4 Direction are not mutually exclusive. As I said, it is vital we use as many powers as possible which are at our disposal to control rampant development of HMOs, which I agree is a very likely outcome of the government's deregulation and changes to housing benefits.
An obvious next step is to talk to Barking and Dagenham to see what can be learned from them.
I am looking froward to the seminar Nilgun mentioned. I think it should help shape the policy and move us further in tackling the proliferation of HMOs. I hope background papers will be made available.
Councillor, St. Ann's Ward
Thanks Zena. It sounds like the 'HMO group's extensive report on Article 4 Directions' is what I'm after.
What you say makes complete sense. I've already welcomed the discretionary licensing scheme and completely agree that it and A4D are absolutely not mutually exclusive. Both are to be welcomed, but both serve slightly different ends.
The issue for me now is speed. It may be that A4D can be introduced in Harringay immediately after the decision to do so is taken. However fear of compensation may lead the Council down the 12 month route. With the changes you refer to starting in January, time is running out.
The problem of HMOs in this area has been ongoing for many years. The new licensing scheme that the council are setting up will help address this partially but we have to have a longer sighted view of this, there are going to be massive changes in the housing market over the near future and this area will see a huge increase in demand for this type of accommodation. We have to use all ways of controlling this otherwise we will have a bigger problem than we already have, especially on the Ladder. The council is showing some reluctance to look at Article 4 Directions because of cost but this has to be the way forward if things aren't to spiral out of control. I will continue to press the council to look at other areas whether this is used and measure how successful it would be here, I have no doubt it would be and this has to be the way forward.
Councillor for Harringay Ward
John can we just agree that we need the minutes and background papers of the Homes in Multiple Occupation Working Group placed in the public domain. (Unless of course there are very clear legal reasons why certain bits can't be.) The HMO issue potentially affects everyone in the borough. And we've all helped to pay for the work done. Let's have transparency.
Karen, I'm sure we can all agree that "there are going to be massive changes in the housing market over the near future and this area will see a huge increase in demand for this type of accommodation". And I'm also sure that by "this area" you'll know that the whole of Tottenham is now even more in the sights of other Boroughs, slum landlords, and buy-to-let "investors".
In other words, it's not mainly a "Ladder", or "Gardens" problem. Across the borough, every home, every tiny Victorian "cottage"; every garage; every loft; and each garden shed is being eyed-up and will increasingly be used to "hutch" people. The damage to families, especially children, and to residents' physical and mental health is likely to be appalling.I wonder if you would agree then with Campbell Robb the Chief Executive of Shelter that:
"The coalition government should stop bulldozing through badly thought-through policies while ignoring independent evidence, its own expert panel and the views of those who will deal with the very real impact on people."
I am not trying to score party points. The Labour Government failed to build enough affordable new homes. It wrongly prevented local authorities from building. And it trusted the private sector to solve housing problems when the private sector was a major cause of those problems.
I don't underestimate or dismiss the work done by Haringey staff in trying to tackle these problems. But in the end, local councils - especially in areas like Haringey - were asked to manage a housing crisis and to manage people's misery.
About an Article 4 Direction, when Cllr Nilgun Canver posted here yesterday she seems to be leaving the position open. My partner Zena Brabazon also posted a comment and said that the two approaches – are not mutually exclusive. I've spoken to Cllr Stuart MacNamara who is also on the Working Group and he had the same understanding - a discretionary licensing scheme as soon as possible; followed by an Article 4 Direction later.
You mention the Council's concern about cost. Isn't this a wholly reasonable concern because of at least two factors? First there still appears to be a risk of Councils having to pay compensation to owners. If you have firm legal advice that this isn't the case, I'm sure we would all welcome it.
But it seems to me there's a second and central issue: having sufficient funds to carry out inspection and enforcement - including legal resources. Would you and your colleagues be prepared to join with Labour in pressing the Coalition Government to make sure sufficient new funds are available both now and following an Article 4 Direction?
(Labour Councillor Tottenham Hale)