Thanet council will use £727,600 of the £3.515 million payment from Cardy Ramsgate Ltd for the Pleasurama site freehold in July 2016, to buy up to four properties to house isle families.
The aim is to help ease pressure on the number of households in temporary accommodation – which stood at 135 in October.
Thanet’s housing issues are due to a lack of available accommodation and the gap between housing benefit rates and the charges for rent in the private sector, says council housing boss Bob Porter.
Mr Porter said: “Supply issues are driving up rental market values. The difference between local housing allowance and rents means people have to ‘top up’ and many can’t afford it,
“For those going on to Universal Credit the time to process the claims and the delays in families receiving the first payment means they are effectively in arrears before they start.”
It is hoped a government announcement of Citizens Advice funding specifically to help people through the UC process will help alleviate some of the pressure.
Thanet council building and refurb project
Thanet council is tackling the issue with its own scheme of building or refurbishing 150 homes by 2020 at a cost of £30million.
A bid to government to fund a further 35 new homes at the cost of £8.8million has also been made.
Some £14million has so far been spent on the housing scheme across Thanet. These projects include new build programme, Margate Housing Intervention project, Empty Homes Project 2012-15, and King Street intervention.
Investment has been £7,258,330 in Ramsgate, £1,377,202 in Broadstairs and £6,048,514 Margate.
Last week Cabinet members agreed to use the Pleasurama cash to secure three or four new homes. The site was
destroyed by fire in May 1998, two years after then-owner Jimmy Godden took it over.
Originally planning permission was given to Mr Godden, now deceased, for a shopping centre on the land but, in 2001, when it became clear this was not going to materialise, Thanet council bought the site by compulsory purchase.
In 2004 planning permission was granted for a 60-bed hotel, 107 residential apartments, leisure facilities and retail. The deal was headed by development company SFP Venture UK but work never got underway and the site still stands empty.
Urgent need for homes
Cabinet members were told at the meeting on Thursday that new homes are urgently needed for those on the housing list and those who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation.
Over the past seven years an average 73 new affordable homes were provided each year by the council and its housing association partners. The Strategic Housing Market Assessment completed in 2016 identified a need for 397 affordable homes per year.
The report to councillors says: “Since October 2016, average property prices across Thanet have increased by 16% (Hometrack). The average price in the district at July 2018 was £267,542 and the average price for a lower quartile property was £183,666 (Hometrack).
“If properties within a value band of between £175,000 and £210,000 are targeted, the available resources will fund the purchase of between three and four homes.”
Thanet council has already spent £200,000 to provide 6 new homes.
Working with landlords
Work to provide more housing is also being done with developers to push forward building on projects that have planning permission but have stalled and relationships are being built up with more landlords.
Mr Porter (pictured) said: “Our message to landlords is ‘we want to work with you.’ If they talk to us we can offer a service, finding a tenant without necessarily using an agent. We offer financial support, tenancy training and if there is a problem with a tenant we can offer advice on the proper legal process.”
Tenants – get help sooner
For tenants the advice is to talk to the council as soon as problems arise rather than waiting for an eviction notice.
The new Homelessness Reduction Act extends from 28 to 56 days the period in which a household is defined as ‘threatened with homelessness’ and places a new ‘prevention’ duty on local authorities to ‘take reasonable steps’ to prevent homelessness.
Since April 3 this year Thanet council has prevented 306 households from becoming homeless. Prior to that its most effective year was 2014 with 373 preventions compared to its least effective year in 2016 with202 preventions.
As of Monday (November 19) there were 2,645 households registered on Thanet’s housing waiting list.