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


  1. We used to have 1000’s of b&b’s in Thanet, then as more and more people went abroad for package holidays, they turned into Private properties or flats. Now that there has been a resurgence in Uk beach holidays the Airbnb’s are taking up the slack. We must be careful not to strangle our tourism industry with knee jerk restrictions.

    • Very true. Unfortunately TDC and the local morons that keep voting for them LOVE a knee jerk reaction.

    • says the person who owns multiple airbnbs..
      lets put this in to perspective..
      there are about 10 properties to rent on right move at this moment in time.
      on airbnb, for any random week in the next 6 months there are over 300 options.
      you tell me there isn’t a problem when theres people sleeping on the damn streets?
      airbnb should be regulated out of existence.

  2. the only good thing about high rents is that it keeps the trailer trash out , as i dont think the social will pay these amounts ?

    • The “trailer trash” around here are long-term substance abusers. They know the system like the back of their hands. They know how to get classed as “vulnerable” “disabled” and worm their way to the top of the housing waiting list. They get offered the first available council flat.

      The people left disadvantaged by private rent hikes are the decent upstanding members of society paying rent out of their own salaries.

      • Can you explain what intellectual powers the “trailer trash” have that is apparently denied to the decent, upstanding members of society?

        • Sweetie, I’m sorry you come from a part of town where “vulnerable” and “disabled” are classed under intellectual powers. In other parts of town they’re classed under “needing assistance to be housed”

    • This will be the Real World come the new year, when energy costs will exceed £80.00 a week! Thats the prediction, so what will people do if they can’t afford it, and their rent? Get evicted!!!!

  3. I’ve been sofa surfing for 6 months with my baby and was offered temporary accommodation 80 miles away…

    • That’s awful Rebecca.
      I know it will give you any comfort but this situation is a longstanding problem, since the 1980’s when Right to Buy Council homes was instituted. The money was not used to build future housing stock. The Labour Party has continued to support RTB and a complex joint ownership schemes. Locally, it is remarkable that the Labour Party did nothing to rectify this situation. Indeed the Labour Party is demonising all private landlords to the point where the housing stock is being sold off to become Airbnb. Private landlords and I include Housing Associations in this do what they do to make a profit. They are businesses and do not share the ethos of council homes for communities. Sites like Manston could be used to provide temporary accommodation for the thousands of homeless like yourself Rebecca. After the war we had prefabs for people whilst new people’s homes were built usually by the people who subsequently lived in them. Until a radical solution is effected like that, no beneficial change will happen. There’s a lot of self interest in this crisis debate. Politicians are vying to be selected to become their political party’s new candidate for a chance to become our MP. I wish them well, but they have been asleep at the wheel for a long time.

  4. There is one overwhelming reason for the shortage of Social Housing.
    Thatcher sold it off. And now, decades down the line, we’re still facing the consequences.

    • Thatcher made it possible for most people to be able to afford to buy their own home. That would stop pensioners scrimping and scrapping for rent on their pensions. It was also so tax payers did not have to help pay other peoples rent.
      Very good plan just a shame the idiots that came after her, did not build any social housing to replace!

      I suppose you’re another idiot who blames MT for coal mine closures? Do your research, Arthur Scargil started it in the 70’s…..just after we joined the Common Market!
      Why are loony leftists so dim??

      • Sale of council houses was a state subsidised give-away that wrecked social mobility and over-inflated housing prices. Access to housing should be a given not a privilege be that affordable rents or home ownership. Housing stock was not replaced. It used to be that renting was a cheaper option than obtaining a mortgage. How many buy-to- let mortgages have been paid off by tenants claiming housing benefit?

  5. Yes, Thatcher sold off council housing, but Labour did nothing to stop it either during the years they were in government. Yes it was a horrendous policy, but for goodness sake, stop looking back and blaming others for what happened in the past as that can’t be altered. No political party ever gets it right. And why is that? Because there is no easy or ‘correct’ solution.

    What is now needed, not just in Thanet but throughout the whole country, is a complete shake-up of the the social housing system. But like so many other things (NHS, schools etc etc) it all takes money and people complain when they have to pay more taxes. No simple easy solution as otherwise it would have be done already.

    It does not help that many people no longer want to be landlords as there are too many problems with tenants not paying rent and then the landlord is out of pocket, very often when they can’t afford it as they too have a mortgage on the property they are renting out. Years ago, Social Services paid rent directly to the landlord. That was changed so that the money went to the tenant who was then responsible for paying the rent. Of course, the obvious happened – many tenants prioritised other spending over rent and left landlords without income.

    What so many fail to acknowledge is that many landlords are not rich – they buy a property to rent out as an investment. They too have expenses on that property. And when they have a problem tenant, be it one not paying rent, not looking after the property, causing disturbances to others etc etc, that landlord then decides to sell up and get out of the rental market.

    There definitely needs to be more social housing built but it costs money and where does that money come from? In the meantime, priority for housing in any council area should be given to those who have been long term residents in that area.

    And social housing should be provided to local people before any immigrants or refugees. I sympathise with all of them, but we have to look after our own first. I get so angry when I read about immigrants / refugees complaining about how they don’t like living in a hotel room or only have one bedroom for four people or whatever – they should be grateful they are somewhere safe and be made to realise that part of being an immigrant / refugee in this country means you join the long waiting lists we already have and you are not entitled to preferential treatment over UK citizens. I know many will now call me heartless, callous or many other names, but I see it as realism.

  6. Lots of houses are being built round here. Thousands in fact.
    But they are the type of houses that the developers want to build. Large ,costing £350K or more.
    But the people on the waiting list are there because they can’t afford these house prices.
    If we lived in a democracy, the elected politicians would tell the house builders what type of accommodation is required and then expect them to meet local housing need.
    But this doesn’t happen. In the UK, the opposite happens.
    The Westminster government realises that there is public disquiet about homelessness so they issue a general “Build, build, build” call.
    Local councils are being sidelined and have less say in planning issues . The building firms,in effect, tell the local council what they are going to build. As the local council doesn’t have much money to fund expensive court cases, whereas the building companies have squillions of cash for top lawyers, the local councils never even bother to assert themselves. It would cost a fortune and they would lose in Court.
    The result? Thousands of houses built all over the countryside despite local opposition. Yet the housing waiting list grows longer and local people despair of even bothering to vote as the local council doesn’t seem to be able to achieve much.
    And so it goes on………

  7. The houses because built are for people who work in London and because the prices are so high in London, it’s cheaper to get some where here, and the local council like it because it’s bringing money into the area they aren’t concerned about the people who can’t afford new homes at affordable prices.

  8. Why is the local housing full ? maybe because London and other areas are shipping the unemployed to here as rent is cheaper .
    I lived close to what used to be an ok area now its a no go out after dark .

    • London has been social cleansing in Margate from at least the early 90’s. We get their kids in ‘care’ mentally ill, prisoners on release and unemployed!
      London buys land, builds nice houses and puts their unemployed in them.
      The unemployed get their rent paid by local tax payers, that is then paid to their landlords ( London borough councils ) they pay very little council tax as well.
      So that’s money going from us up to corrupt London. Then there is a short fall in money coming in via council tax which is less money being spent on locals.
      Its a load of bollocks!

  9. Thanet has not built any social housing for over 40 years there is your massive problem. Allowing offshore leaks builders and estate agents free peppercorn rent.. Ramsgate sea front… Agreed by labour was £1 a year to land bank.. That’s corruption labour party and you know it and shrouded by it..
    This town needs social housing. What happens to the money that gets given for social housing.
    Thanet Council told me I could relocate to Birmingham or up north..
    The local housing allowance is well below par and has been for over 2 decades and more

    • Really , TDC has built a number of homes , but the main provision of social housing is via the social housing providers, there are quite a number of such developments in thanet. Not including tha affordable portion of private developments usually bought by social providers.
      Local housing allowance was a major policy failure introduced by Gordon Brown in an attempt to buy the 2010 election, it’s been retained as an easy way to control housing benefit/ lha costs. It was last updated during covid but frozen for 5 years at the same time. Rents have risen considerably since and will do so again if the renters reform bill is adopted as presented and further again if the epc level is raised. Another effect of the rental reform bill will be landlords being far more selective over who they accept, which theycwill be able to do given the demand for rented property.
      Reforms to the way holiday lets and airbnb properties are taxed / legislated may bring some property back to the rented sector. However as at long last Thanet is improving and attracting more to live here, property prices are rising so that we are no longer kents poor relation, rents too are narrowing the gap with the averages across the south east.
      We also have a needs based allocation of housing , so the amount of time on the housing list makes no difference to the chances of allocation . Refugees and migrants are often deemed to be in greater need.
      The less than scrupulously honest councillor presents figures for homelessness, but whilst there are large numbers on the gousing list the vast majority have a decent roof over their heads ( they’d prefer social housing) but there are relatively few in emergency housing.
      As for being offered housing in another area, i moved to thanet in the late 80’s as I couldn’t afford to live in my home town and i was working in this area, I didn’t expect to have my housing subsidised to live where i grew up.

    • Who rented the harbour arm for £1 a year Tories and labour are as bad as each other all look after themselves and what happens we fight between each other but as always it’s politicians that decide ok our life they are the one who should get our anger and frustration

  10. We need to take care of our own people, before helping others.
    Yes I am aware that the people coming into the country are escaping problems in their own country, but this country has its own problems to sort out first, then help others, but our own people must come first.

  11. Yes I agree Frank, The ghost of evil thatcher lives on she put this country on it’s knees and it’s never recovered, in the last 12 years the Tories have been in power the economy has NOT improved one 1% disgusting. It’s all so depressing all the parties are useless all of them, the Tories are the worst by far.

  12. Landlords quitting is the best outcome. This should shut all bedsits down en masse.

    That alone will make Thanet a go to desirable destination for the entire country.

    Litter. Overcrowding. Ghettoes. All eradicated.

    Nothing else needed.

  13. Property prices in Thanet have increased well above the national average in the last 10 years and, in turn, landlords have increased rents accordingly.
    If I was living in an area where I was struggling to make ends meet, I would move to a cheaper part of the country just as the many people who moved to Margate in the 80s did.

  14. Thanet rents aren’t the problem, it’s the lack of willingness to get up in the mornings and go to work.
    The majority of homelessness is caused by some kind of addiction.
    Let’s face facts. Thanet really has nothing to offer in terms of great employment opportunities.
    The closure of the airport and very little tourism due to a lack of attractions and high number of people simply reply on benefit and handouts.
    Obviously the knock on effect will be high crime rates.
    Councillors should be looking to improve employment opportunities.
    Best advise I would give the local residents is to move away from Thanet.
    Thanet lacks investment and leadership

  15. Councillors always start of with great intentions, firstly to make a name for themselves and bring changes to the area.
    Then it always comes down to money.
    Thanet has been run into the ground over the last 30/40 years.
    Back in the 90’s hotels closed to become care homes for the elderly. Now days it’s the illegal immigrants
    It doesn’t matter what governing body gets in because they all lets us down in the end.
    Reopen the airport for commercial use, that would offer some great employment opportunities for people of Thanet.
    Spend some money of bringing back tourism trade.
    Everybody has to work through the hard times ahead.
    Shame the power station wasn’t still in Thanet, opening that up would be useful.
    Everybody needs to stop looking for hand outs and get off the benefit system.

  16. Lack of rented property isnt the fault of the council its the goverments fault for driving landords into leaving the rented house business

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