Friday, 26 July 2013

Croydon Council’s Patchy Knowledge of Housing

While some of the housing policies and actions being undertaken by Croydon Council, such as intervention to improve living conditions in the private rented sector and to encourage Living Over the Shop schemes (see below), it is a pity that its approach to research and recording means that it either does not know the detail of key issues and trends in housing in the Borough. This has become apparent from the series of Freedom of Information requests I submitted after the Council meeting on 1 July, mainly to follow up questions and issues I had submitted to the Scrutiny Sub-committee members for their meeting on 18 June. In addition to the lack of information admitted to other housing blog postings of today, it is clear that:

(     1)   it is not monitoring the sale prices of new apartments being sold in the developments it has given planning approval for;
(     2)  It does not know the savings to its benefits bill of the cut in housing benefit to certain households with a spare bedroom.

Sale Prices of Apartments

Question: As  most of the new build housing in the Borough is being undertaken by developers.
a.    Is the Council monitoring the sale prices of the units?
b.   What were the numbers of dwellings in each £100,000 sale price band  completed in 2011/12, 2012/13 and up to 30 June in 2013/14?
c.   What was the average sale price of all new dwellings completed by developers in 2011/12, 2012/13 and up to 30 June in 2013/14?

Reply: The council does not monitor house the sale prices of units in Croydon. Therefore we are unable to provide an answer to the Freedom of Information request as we do not hold this information.  Some information on house sales is freely available on the Land Registry’s website.

Spare Rooms Benefit Reduction Savings

Question: Where households in social housing are having to move to smaller accommodation because of the spare rooms benefit reduction, is the Council monitoring the saving made in housing benefit? If so how much has been saved so far, bearing in mind that households moving in not subject to the reduction, may also be claiming housing benefit?

Answer: As Housing Benefit is funded by central government, we only receive funding/subsidy for what is accurately paid there are no savings to the council due to under occupancy or benefit cap.  Families move for a number of reasons and the council will not always be directly involved or aware of individual circumstances behind those changes in circumstances.

Living Over the Shop

Question:  Has any consideration been given to talking to shop keepers to find out:
a.    How the upper floors above their shops are used?
b.   Whether they are underused?
c.    Whether they lease the upper floors or whether that is the responsibility of their landlords?
d.   Whether there are separate access problems to the upper floors which would require some work to be undertaken to create self-contained flats?
e.   Whether they would be interested to take part in a Living Over the Shop initiative?

Answer: The Council’s Empty Property Service is currently in the middle of a 6 month survey of district centres within the borough. This includes the surveying of all shop premises and the floors/accommodation above them to establish whether they are in use or vacant and if so, what the owners intentions are.
Advice and assistance is being given to owners on how they can be returned to use, including discussing with them how access and other problems can be overcome and the letting opportunities that are available.

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