New Thanet council plan aimed at tackling housing crisis

Deputy council leader Helen Whitehead says the housing plan aims for a new approach through the work of all the political parties

A lack of affordable property development, shortage of one and two-bed homes, inaccessible rents due to a cap on local authority housing allowances and low wages, rising private rents and an increasing elderly population with specific property needs are all contributing to Thanet’s housing crisis.

A new Housing and Homelessness Strategy from Thanet council outlines the stark reality of residents struggling to find, or keep, quality housing and how the authority hopes to tackle the issue over the next five years.

According to the report the loss of a private rented tenancy is the biggest reason for homelessness in Thanet with  landlords able to select tenants that can afford higher rents and have access to rent-in-advance, deposits and guarantors.

Rising rents and low incomes

Priced out of the rental market

Thanet property costs, both rental and mortgage, are rising due to a lack of supply and the high rate of second homes on the isle. Many families on universal credit/ housing benefit and/or low wages are struggling to top up rents not covered by the set amount of housing allowance.

The report says: “For those on low incomes, the housing options are scarce with a reliance on social housing for rent. New ‘affordable rent’ at up to 80% of market rents is increasingly affordable to those on low incomes and the council’s Tenancy Strategy limits ‘affordable rents’ for new build homes to the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate to assist with this.

“There is also a growing ‘affordability gap’ where middle income households are being squeezed out of the market; with limited housing options for low cost home ownership or the private rented sector.

“The difficulties in accessing home ownership and the increasing cost of rental accommodation, is resulting in more employed households making approaches to the council.”

According to figures in the report there are 19,471 households – 29% of the Thanet population – on a low income, defined as less than £15,988 per annum.

On average earnings are £462.50 per week which is within the bottom 20% of the whole of England. This means more than 80% of the population in Thanet cannot afford to buy an averagely priced terraced house and those who are renting in the private sector are spending more than 50% of their earnings on living costs. The National Housing Federation says only 30% of income should be spent on housing costs.

The lack of affordable housing means more people living in poor quality accommodation, overcrowding or under-occupancy.

Read here: Locked Out: Housing benefit freeze putting rental properties out of reach for Thanet families

Increasing affordable homes

The new strategy includes aims to increase affordable homes, create a council housing company, target local residents with exclusive marketing for home ownership, continue to use disabled facility grants to adapt housing for older residents and improve working across agencies.

Thanet council deputy leader Helen Whitehead says the housing plan has been created with input from councillors across the political parties and will involve much more partnership work.

She said: “It is very much an evolving strategy, we will be constantly reviewing and developing action points on each of the main themes. We will make sure we are responding to the needs in the area and demographically these can change quite significantly.

“We are also acknowledging that issues are not separate. There is no point in looking at homelessness on its own because it does not exist in isolation. It exists alongside other needs and that’s why the multi-agency approach of RISE works so well. This is what to do with the housing strategy, looking at needs as a whole and the impact by everything that surrounds that.

“The only way forward considering the level of cuts we have had nationally is to be as creative as possible, acknowledge how everything is linked and provide the best service possible.”

According to the report there are 67,000 homes in the Thanet district area with  3016  in council ownership. It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the district live in a deprived area and 1 in 5 children in the district live in poverty.

As of September 2019, there were 2,354 households on the housing register with 109 listed as in urgent need and 200 in serious need, with the remainder listed as ‘reasonable preference.’

Just over half of those on the register need a one bed property with the next highest need for two bed properties. A third of those needing one-bed homes are over 60 years of age. Some 502 households on the housing register have a physical or mental health condition, made worse by their housing circumstances.

Shared ownership – where a resident can purchase anything from 25% upwards of their home – is one option the council is examining to make ownership more accessible.

More accessible homes will be created through the lowered threshold for affordable housing from 15 to sites of 10 or more units needing to provide 30% affordable housing.

Read here: Unaffordable housing: ‘Trapped at home aged 23 and sharing a room with my teenage brother’

Energy efficiency

Council build in Chichester Road in Ramsgate

And  the council’s own build programme will continue with a focus on making sure properties are energy efficient to lower utility bills.

According to the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 10.6% of households in the district live in fuel poverty which impacts on their health and well-being. Fuel Poverty is defined by a low income household with high costs. If fuel costs are above average, by paying for that amount, the remaining household income falls below the official poverty line.

The highest concentrations of fuel poverty are in the private sector and are found in wards of Cliftonville West, Margate Central and Eastcliff with excess cold concentrated in the Thanet Villages, Dane Valley and Central Harbour.

Some 11% of the private sector homes in Thanet also  contain a Category 1 Hazard, defined by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System as a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety. This relates to damp and mould in properties. The report says the cost of dealing with these hazards would be approximately £18.8m.

Thanet council aims to invest more in energy measures for homes including heating improvement, double glazing, solid wall insulation and solar hot water which will enable over 36% reduction in energy demand.

A reduction of 20% in energy demands could also be made by implementing heating improvements within tower blocks across the district

Cllr Whitehead said energy efficient builds would be important in terms of the climate change declaration made by the council last year. She added: “What I would like to see come from the new (council) housing company is eventually using the facility to create some flagship environmental builds. We already do well and are above national recommendations for insulation and double glazing to be as environmentally sustainable as possible in the new builds.

“During working with and speaking to all parties on this strategy, the Green Party would like to see  Passive level (high energy savings, greenhouse gases reductions, ecologically sustainable) builds.  Looking at larger and more extensive projects we would have to think how we could deliver that and how to stretch it further.”

Read here: Council plans to create its own housing company to tackle isle shortage

Working with other services

The strategy says linking up with services to promote better health and wellbeing will also form part of the housing plan. This aims to help people live independently for longer, develop online skills so people can access services, target isolation and work to support those with mental ill health, disabilities and young people – especially care leavers – who need to access housing.

Work will also take place with landlords and on selective licensing.

An action plan for tackling homelessness and rough sleeping is also included in the strategy and was reported on by The Isle of Thanet News last week – Unique homeless sheltersuits delivery and council report on stark reality for Thanet rough sleepers

Getting involved

Cllr Whitehead says the strategy has been created by involving the whole council and she hopes residents will read it and raise any questions they have.

She said: “The whole point of council should be to make things clear, what we want and how that will happen. It should be something people find accessible and we need to be approachable as our job is to serve.

“This was a full chamber effort and I hope residents who have questions or input will feel they can approach me or the other councillors to say they have an interest.”

A  six week public consultation on the housing plan is due to be carried out – dates are yet to be confirmed. The final draft will then be submitted to council in February/March for approval.

Find the full housing strategy here

Read here: New Ramsgate houses being built in £2.5m affordable homes project

Read here: From homelessness and addiction to work and becoming a home owner – “do not give up on hope”

Read here: Call for review of private medical company used by councils including Thanet for ‘vulnerable’ housing need assessments


    • I can assure you the results after my meeting with her regarding the problems in St.Johns road margate were hardly stellar, ignoring emails was the response in the end.

  1. Amazing, only a Labour Cllr would be promoting affordable social housing in Thanet. Messers Gale and Mackinlay should hang their heads in shame. They have presided over years of lack of investment in the social fabric of our towns and before the blue rinse brigade get all sniffy, yes I know they are not district councillors, but their party’s cuts to all local authorities are the main cause and they know it. Well done Helen, push every button and all,power to you in your efforts.

  2. At last, the really difficult issues are being tackled not skirted around. There are no easy answers but by working together we stand the best chance of making things better. Helen’s positive, inclusive, kind style of politics is effective.

  3. So there’s a shortage of 1/2 bed accomodation , but the council had a planning policy that restricted these in certain areas. No mention of dealing with the outstanding issues within the council housing stock mismanaged by TDC / EKH.
    Plus Councillor Whitehead was unwilling to answer emails last year in respect of the issues in St. Johns road margate, after over 3 years of contact with the council and endless police involvement action only taken after the property was “firebombed” ( fortunately unsuccessfully).
    Will councillor Whitehead be issuing a damming statement over the TDC/EKH fiasco ?
    The article refers to energy efficiency in new properties , but that’s required under building regulations, so hardly a result of TDC’s efforts.

  4. Since 1974, Conservative led councils have mostly governed Thanet. KCC is a Conservative led Council, since 1886.The Conservatives have been in Govt at Westminster since 2010. The 1972 local govt act, which destroyed the Borough Councils in Thanet and gave us TDC, was passed by the Heath Govt (Conservative).
    Labour can be accused of many failings, but now the buck stops with Boris.
    Cllr Whitehead is trying to be inclusive and asking for a cross party agreement on social housing, what can be wrong with that?
    TDC planning policy is often askew, but it is not against 1/2 bedroom flats, its against HMO’s,an entirely different matter.
    I don’t know or frankly care, why Cllr Whitehead did not respond to LC in the way he wanted, probably it was because much of his sage advice means that Thanet will continue to get a real stuffing, instead of a renewal of purpose.

    • Have a look at the Cliftonville development plan , getting permission for 1 bed units is nigh on impossible, hmo’s are shutting as a result of lack of historic investment by landlords , as such getting them up to standard is not economically viable under the current lha rates and universal credit rules. New HMO’s are being created but these are of better quality and aimed at young full time workers no longer able to access the rented sector due to cost.
      Hence the rise in rough sleeping, substance dependent non working males make up the bulk of those displaced social housing has no place for them under our “needs based” allocation system. Forcing older poor quality hmo’s to close is understandable but maybe not the best policy for those that lose the only roof they had.
      Every government and council since i arrived in thanet has failed the area, our councillors are “whipped” to toe the party line and so onlymake the pronouncements deemed worthy and achieve very little. In response to a constituents enquiry they merely pass it on to the same officers any of us could. Ask a councillor what takes up most of their time and it’ll be planning issues.
      Samuels, Mcgonegal, and now Homer have hardly been great successes and Ezekiel and Hart both have considerable clouds over their terms.
      Most of the others have not had long enough in post to do anything,
      We have an oversight and scrutiny committee that just rubber stamps officers recomendations which in turn are usually based on financial constraints.
      How many millions has TDC squandered over the years in respect of, ICO issues, live animal exports, pleasurama, internal staff settlements, dreamland, etc, i don’t think any of us believe the costs associated with dreamland are finished.
      Arlington house TDC won’t enforce the lease clauses. Dodgy characters now control huge portions of the seafront and as and when the sale of dreamland goes through we’ll be in their clasp. Turner centre needs endless subsidy and more cash less than 10 years after opening ,but public toilet provision is abysmal.
      Anyone tried the new system for buying residents visitor parking permits, a scheme thats effectively socially isolating (£3.60 to have a person visit you with a car, can only buy 40 a year, books of 20 expire at the end of a financial year, bought individually you have to submit proof of address every time, approval takes 2 days) yet we have a foreign registered vehicle with 130 unpaid tickets on it and no doubt collecting more.
      Selective licencsing in cliftonville a pure revenue raiser predicated on flawed stats.
      And a council that can’t look after its own housing, just wait for the bills to roll in to put that lot right, ask Councillor Whitehead what the projected sums are for outstanding works, fire doors at 1300 pounds each anyone? Railing replacements at around a million due to lack of maintenance, roof repairs due to neglect, legionella risk mangement, list is endless.
      But as ever we’ll hear that the current administration can only deal with the situation its inherited, all well and good but history tells us that they’ll only make it worse as a result of the political idealism each group insists on following rather than being pragmatic with the basics.
      Crime and antisocial behaviour is forever blamed on the police, they can arrest crims day in day out but its pointless when the rest of the criminal justice system just lets them straight back out, the right does it to save money the liberal left because there’s always an excuse for the perpetrators actions. There may well be merit in each course of action but it does absolutely nothing for the victims and those that live with the ne’er do wells. So logically something needs to be done to maintain law and order along with the publics respect and confidence in the law.

        • If that’s a serious question then i’ve never heard of any such person, if its a play on words or some reference or another, i’m afraid its gone right over my head.

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