Havering Council admits it got PSL housing review wrong
- Credit: Archant
The council has now decided to complete a new re-assessment of all 878 people living in PSL properties after the Recorder challenged them on the way that it dealt with the situation.
Havering Council has apologised about the way that it dealt with a review of all Private Sector Leasing properties causing fear amongst families in the borough.
The Recorder has spoken with more than 100 residents who were scared that they might be forced to either move as far away as Margate or Harlow or declare themselves homeless.
The council has said that a brand new re-assessment of all 878 people living in PSL properties across Havering is now going to be carried out and that all past letters and information issued to residents prior to today (Tuesday, July 10) are no longer valid.
PSL housing cost the council £2m last year, and they are undergoing the new re-assessment to save money.
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Leader of the council, Councillor Damian White admitted that they “got it wrong” and apologised a number of times in an interview with the Recorder.
He said that the council didn’t give enough information to vulnerable residents and councillors, and that this has been a “learning curve.”
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He said that every PSL resident will now be visited by a senior housing officer and their housing situation will be re-assessed.
All residents living in PSL housing in Havering will now receive another letter in the coming days, with more information about the re-assessment, and what their next steps will be.
The council leader said that their is still a possibility that some families may be moved out of the borough, but said that he didn’t feel it would be right to say how many that could be.
According to Steve Moore - the council’s neighbourhoods director- the review is expected to take a few months.
In a bid to reassure residents he said that there will be no decision taken on how the council is going to continue with PSL housing until after all 878 residents have been spoken to and their housing needs assessed.
Councillor White, the former cabinet member for housing said that the decision to commence the initial review was made at a closed cabinet meeting, shortly after the new council was elected.
He said: “I’d like to apologise on behalf of the council to all of those individuals in PSL, the 250 or so that were contacted and the other individuals the other 600 that were not contacted.
“It was not really the way an organisation should engage with residents.
“There has been a lot of fear and anxiety caused through a lack of information.
“Because the council did not ensure that everyone was informed with what was happening their was a great amount of whispering on social media which has given the impression that something that may not be happening may be happening.
“For that I would like to apologise. Its not the way we should have treated those individuals and I have instructed officers to make sure that this never happens again and each of those 878 people are to be visited by an officer.
“Until that happens nothing else is going to happen to the PSL scheme or any of the individual households.
“All of that is being paused. Until everyone of those households has been visited by one of our senior housing officers.
“Their needs will now be assessed against our published housing criteria.
“We’re going to visit them all speak to them in person.
“There has been a move away with these landlords wanting their properties back.
“We’re doing an assessment to ensure that they (PSL residents) are in an appropriate type of accommodation and we can support them into more longer term accommodation that meets their housing needs.
“PSL is not a long term viable solution for these individuals.”
“PSL has always been used as a means to provide temporary accommodation for individuals, people’s circumstances change, with rising local rent levels and decreasing of local benefit levels, it means the gap between A and B is becoming even greater.
“Last year we spent £2 million as a top up from what we receive from housing benefit and what we claim from landlords.
“This pressure is only ever increasing and it is putting not just Havering Council under pressure.
“Every single London authority is going through a process to make sure their able to provide suitable longer term accommodation for those individuals, in the context of their own circumstances.
“In an age of austerity it’s incredibly important that we make sure we provide effective accommodation within the resources that we have.
“Also its about providing longer term suitable accommodation for those individuals for the next 10-15-20 years.
“I’m not too sure what people have been told. That’s why this whole process is being paused.
“Every house is going to be supported and we will go through an assessment with them.
“We’re doing literally every single thing possible to provide as many affordable accommodation as it possibly could.
“We’ve gone from dare I say a bit of a backwater of social housing provision four or five years ago to being at the cutting edge of an increase in social provision.
“We’ve got one of the largest social house building projects in London if not the country.
“We’re doing as much as we possibly can to build as many properties as we possibly can over the shortest period to provide for these individuals.
“It would be wrong of me to tell you where there all going to go, because that would prejudge an assessment.”
“Its a possibility that some people might be placed out of borough, but it is down to what is suitable for those individuals.
“The communication we provided was not the right way to deal with these individuals.
“As I said I’ve apologised on behalf of the council, that we should have provided much more information at the start.
“We should have been much more supportive and treated those individuals the way that anybody else expected.
“I can’t change what has happened. But every one of those families is going to be contacted they’re going to be supported and assessed, and we’re going to do everything we can to get them into longer term accommodation, because at the end of the day, PSL is and always has been intended to be a temporary long term solution for a problem that people face at that particular time.
“With Crossrail and Elizabeth Line we’ve seen huge changes in housing supply, which is driving a lot of landlords to request their properties back from Havering Council.
“That’s putting a lot of pressure on us.”
“This is decision we’ve made based on our own individual circumstances, we’ve not consulted anybody else.”
“We are putting the tenant at the heart of everything that we do - we probably haven’t done this up until this point - whilst finance is important what for me is absolute sacrosanct is ensuring we provide the most suitable accommodation and affordable accommodation for those individuals.
“We did not make everyone aware of what we were doing, that again I apologise for, and that will not happen again.
“We will not allow this situation to occur again, where members of the council, vulnerable members of our society are not informed up to a certain level of the changes that are going to be put in place that effect them.
“This has been a learning curve for the senior leadership of the council so that this doesn’t happen.”
“If any individual wishes to visit me at the town hall I am more than happy to speak with them.
“We’re not some nasty council that has just come along trying to dictate terms to people, we are trying to support individuals and to support them into the most appropriate longer term accommodation.
“My door is always open, and I am more than happy to meet any residents.”
“That is not the case, its about providing suitable longer term accommodation to our residents.”
Steve Moore, Director of neighbourhoods at Havering Council said: “It’s impossible to say (how many people will be moved out of the borough), you need to understand the level of demand against supply.
“As a council we have a duty to house someone and we have to house them first and foremost, secondly it can be the where.
“The council can’t spend money it doesn’t have.
“It isn’t a bank.
“The PSL model alone has created an additional £2m pressure for the last three years.
“That £2m has got to come from somewhere else.
“We’re trying to do the best we can do by our residents at these very challenging times.
“We need to get everybody in, understand their needs and what their options are.”
“We mustn’t overpromise. It’s no good saying everything is okay you can stay in the borough and it will be hunky dory. The reality is probably different to that for some.
“It’s difficult to say how many people will be moved out of the borough until we assess the need. We need to assess those that still qualify. It might show that some of them don’t qualify for us to support.
“And those that do, how can we be best support them as individuals or families and how best can we go about doing that.
“We’ve got families with their children doing GCSES and A-Levels and we wouldn’t uproot people at a critical time in their lives like that.
“We look at every case individually.
“It’s important that this is not a financially sustainable position for us to be in. We’re trying to be pro-active here and the worst possible thing we could do as a council is do nothing.
“We’ve seen a problem, we know its not sustainable so lets address it, and lets come up with the best possible solution we can possibly deliver.”
The Recorder has created a Facebook group for PSL families to share their concerns.
To request to become a member please follow this link.