Margate councillor calls for emergency action over isle’s unaffordable rents and increasing homelessness

Cllr Helen Whitehead was calling for urgent action on Thanet's housing crisis

A rarely used ‘councillor call for action’ is being used to have Thanet’s housing crisis discussed as an emergency item this month.

Thanet Labour group’s deputy leader Helen Whitehead says the call has been prompted by increasing homelessness which has already reached the point of “no temporary placements left in the whole of Kent, and families being separated and removed from their support systems while they wait an indeterminate amount of time for long-term housing.”

Cllr Whitehead will bring the emergency item before fellow councillors on Tuesday, August 30 so the overview and scrutiny committee discuss the issue of spiralling private rents across the district.

She hopes the action will force a formal hearing and intervention from central government.

‘Residents continue to suffer’

Cllr Whitehead, who holds the shadow cabinet housing portfolio, said: “A call for action should act as an emergency klaxon; for it to be accepted you not only have to provide clear evidence that there is a significant problem, but also that you have previously tried every possible route to address it.

“I have been raising this issue repeatedly in council meetings, with ministers, with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and via the dedicated housing committee which was set up under the Labour administration.

“All recent administrations share the same frustrations in terms of never receiving a response from government that can actually help our residents. Frequently we receive no response at all; at other times we receive responses that offer no support and no solutions. Meanwhile, our residents continue to suffer.

“I am asking for immediate intervention and direct involvement of external agencies in a formal hearing. It needs to explore in full the issues surrounding unaffordable rents and how the council, external agencies and central government can act to improve the situation.”

Thanet council currently has 1,740 households on the housing register waiting for an affordable rented home. Of these 923 are individuals and 817 are families.

In June Thanet council said there were 181 households in temporary accommodation, with 96  housed  outside Thanet.

The council is landlord of 3034 properties but demand outstrips supply and the private market is seeing sharp rent increases and a growing number of properties being used for holiday rentals.

‘External support’

Cllr Whitehead said: “Margate, and Thanet as a whole, are unusually affected by rent inflation, short-term rentals and Airbnb, as well as property price increases. “Homelessness has already reached the point that we have had no temporary placements left in the whole of Kent, and families are being separated and removed from their support systems while they wait an indeterminate amount of time for long-term housing.

“Thanet’s housing team works incredibly hard, in extraordinarily challenging circumstances. I cannot fault our service, or the willingness of officers and councillors to change these circumstances, but to do so we require external support and input.

“By holding a formal hearing, we will have the chance to invite government departments, ministers and MPs, to examine how we can tackle this, together.

“Members of overview and scrutiny have the opportunity on August 30th to vote for a full hearing on this issue, and to work together to address the most pressing issue that our area currently faces.”

Talking about the housing issue previously Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Jill Bayford said: “Demand for accommodation is high and we anticipate that it will continue to rise in the short term due to a range of factors including the cost of living crisis, rising costs in the private rented sector, and courts clearing their backlog of eviction notices.

“We will continue to work as hard as we can to support families and individuals with housing needs in our district.”

The meeting takes place at the council offices in Margate, with a 7pm start. The public are able to attend and the session will also be streamed live and available to view afterwards at