Private Sector Licensing

Southwark Council at last has been exploring licensing private sector landlords.

Sadly this isn’t proposed so much to ensure better housing conditions and to resolve rogue landlords but rather to reduce anti-social behaviour (ASB).

The plan will add landlord licensing for all Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s), single family homes in streets with ASB with Lordship Lane being a prime example.

To obtain a licence a landlord will need to meet specific standards, pay £60 per bedroom each year but importantly take steps to reduce or prevent ASB.

Do you have or have had anti-social behaviour problems from a privately rented home?
If so please get in touch – we may be able to extend these rules to your street.

Lib Dems Bring Greater Fairness For Council Leaseholders

One of the biggest problems is local councils out of the blue charging council leaseholders huge amounts for general maintenance. Often this appears to come from councils just not professionally planning ahead.

I’m proud to say that A cap has just been introduced to limit the amount local authorities and housing associations can charge leaseholders for repairs to council homes.

The new directions limit the amount authorities can charge for future major repair, maintenance, or improvement works when they are wholly or partly funded by the government.

Outside London the maximum amount residents can be charged for repairs on a property will be £10,000 in any five-year period. In London, the cap is £15,000 over the same time period.

If repair works cost more than the set limit, authorities will have to pay the rest.

Postage Stamp Secondary School

Since starting the secondary school debate and campaign in East Dulwich the key has always been where to put it. The only obvious space is the two-thirds of the Dulwich Hospital site that are no longer required for health facilities.

So the site for both secondary schoo,l campaigns is key.
I’ve written an open letter to Southwark Council Leader about this – Open Letter to Southwark Council Leader Peter John 25 July 2014

As things stand with Southwark Council marking out most of the Dulwich Hospital Site for housing the land values are so extremely high only a tiny portion of the site will be affordable for a new secondary school.

Southwark Council need to explain how it will avoid this situation, or as I’ve previously requested change the planning expectations for the hopsital site.

So far instead of practically trying to sort this out they’ve been raising the spectre of a Harris primary school also going on the site.

Without the council leader getting a grip, apart from the universally agreed replacement health provision, we will have both a secondary school and primary school on ridiculoulsy squeezed postage stamp sized spaces plus housing.

106 Lordship Lane

Lots of building work had been taking place at 106 Lordship Lane. Residents were concerned that another attempt was being to turn it into a restaurant but on the sly.

So I and my ward colleague Cllr Rosie Shimell called-on the planning application to be decided by a Planning Committee to ensure the best possible scrutiny.

So it was a pleasant surprise to be on that Planning Committee.

It was even more of a pleasure to hear from both the objectors and proposers of the scheme. The proposer clearly felt bad about the fear that had been caused and agreed to obscured glass at the new rear windows and doors. The residents appears pleased that this had been agreed.

Fingers crossed this all works out well. I thought everyone at the Planning Committee had been really focused on getting the best possible result for all concerned.

My first Planning Committee attendance since being re elected and it was a real pleasure.

Empty Homes Myth

We have a housing crisis. Things are so bad that we’ve recently had very high house price inflation.

One cause has been suggested as the number of empty homes for than one year. But over the last four years the number of empty homes has fallen by one-third. In Southwark since I was first  elected when we had 5,500 empty properties it halved. Partly this is the coalition government allowing councils to double council tax and partly because properties are so much more valuable now. This Southwark halving of empty properties has been repeated London wide and represent 0.64% of homes.

For England the empty property number have declined from 2009 316,251 down to 216,050 in 2013 (the latest figures). With 23.236 homes the empty ones equate to just 0.93%.

If you count empty homes empty for just 6 months – repairs, bereavement then the proportion rises to 1.74%. Not a huge proportion.

So if the housing problems aren’t being caused by empty properties – we need to either increase supply or decrease demand….


Social Cleansing of East Dulwich

Since Southwark Labour took over Southwark Council in 2010 they’ve had a policy of selling council properties if valued at more than £300,000 when they become vacant.

But the housing market is such that in East Dulwich ward no properties have been offered for sale at less than £300,000> I only realise this on Friday while preparing for a hustings. SO at the weekend I spoke to estate agents confirmed prices have risen to this degree for some time.

It means over time that East Dulwich will be socially cleansed of all council social housing tenants.

Typically council tenant churn is 3.5%. So it will only take 15 years for half of the council homes in East Dulwich to be sold.

Across Southwark since 2010 Labour have sold or demolished over 900 homes but built only 26.

The Lib Dems are offering an alternative. When we win back control of Southwark Council we would immediately raise this threshold to £500,000. Still not high enough in my opinion but it would immediately make a material difference.

Do you think East Dulwich should be socially cleansed?

What would you do to stop it?

Leaseholder Freedom Needed

Southwark Council has a number of leaseholders and pseudo freeholders.

Many houses and flats over the last 40 years have been sold under the Right To Buy but because the road they’re on has been kept as an estate road they’ve been sold as freehold houses or leasehold flats that pay estate charges and often much more.

I think we need a small team to review all such freeholds and leaseholds with the aim of adopting the highways and severing freeholder and leaseholder liabilities for highways.

Similarly for leaseholders. in many cases being the freeholder creates a painful liability and un recouped costs for Southwark. I would task such a team with giving the freehold which has negative values to Southwark to the leaseholders.

Both measures would over time reduce the management costs of running Southwark Council housing and save money. This would leave council staff to concentrate on managing the real council properties.

It is ridiculous that so many Southwark residents have been tied needlessly to Southwark Council with reduced freedom at a higher cost

Steveley Close Damp

The things I do/find as a Southwark Councillor!

This morning commuting from East Dulwich into London Bridge I spotted a down drain pipe on Staveley Close council properties when my train stopped at Queens Road Peckham station. It was hard not to while pressed up against the door window.

It’s clear lots of mold and damp are present on 1st and ground floors around one broken down pip – this could be seen clearly from Station Passage or indeed passing trains. It looks like its been growing for many many months. Appalled that so many council officials commuting in and out of Southwark Council HQ at Tooley Street must have ignored this problem.

Using Google maps and Streetview I’m sure 37-42 Staveley Close are the properties involved so I’ve reported the matter. Hopefully it won’t take long to fix – it looks an easy job even for a DIY disaster like me.

Moth Drone Surveys

Southwark Council has a very large property estate. It regularly buys in surveys.

Sometimes this can be really expensive with scaffolding installed to give safe external survey access or abseiling engineers. This is hugely expensive.

Wouldn’t it be useful to have a high definition camera up close so a surveyor doesn’t need scaffolding and to get much quicker results.

Such a system has been created and is being used – month drone.

And talking to a survey supplier I’ve used professionally the system is already in use in the UK.

I’ve suggested this method to the Cabinet Member for Housing at Southwark. He told me not to hold my breath.

East Dulwich Council Properties

Despite a slow start Southwark Council Housing plans to try accelerating the council program of making all council properties dry, warm and safe.  It is a very basic standard – but even thinly applied jam is still jam. This is partly made possible by a large government grant.

Instead of the following properties in small East Dulwch blocks being improved 2015/2016 they will now be improved 2014/2015:

– Crawthew Road

– Crystal Palace Road

– Friern Estate

– Halliwell Estate

Also those street council properties – often victorian properties purchased just after WWII – proposed to be improved are being brought forward from 2015/2016 to 2014/2015.

Do let me know if you’d like any furthers details.