Thanet council will lobby central government for changes in legislation and funding to tackle the housing crisis on the isle and across the country.
Cabinet members are proposing to launch a campaign telling government the country is failing people in housing need.
A report setting out the current position will be discussed by members of the Cabinet at their meeting on Thursday 22 September.
Thanet council receives around 1,000 homelessness applications each year. The council is landlord of 3034 properties but demand outstrips supply.
Thanet is identified as needing 548 affordable homes a year and a key element is the delivery of new affordable homes for rent. But in the 10 years from 2011 to 2021 the district only saw an average of 61 affordable homes delivered each year. This figure increased to 126 in 2021/22 and is projected to increase further to 314 in 2022/23. However, it falls far short of the 548 required each year,
The council says it has already committed significant funding to the construction of new affordable rented homes and wants to do more. The authority says the aim is to see that a far greater proportion of the new homes constructed in Thanet are affordable for people living and working locally.
But Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Jill Bayford, says people are facing ‘extortionate’ rent rises in the private sector combined with the cost of living crisis, meaning an increase those unable to afford rents and facing homelessness.
She said: “We are doing everything we can to support our most vulnerable residents whose ongoing challenges are made worse by the dire need for housing in our district. But we simply don’t have the resources to be able to deliver what’s needed.
“With the support of my Cabinet colleagues, we will be lobbying the government to call for desperately needed changes in legislation and funding, to give us the powers and resources we need to be able to tackle this.
“I have personally raised these issues before, directly with the previous Secretary of State for Housing, and it is clear from the response to this, that a more coordinated campaign for change is required.
“The national shortage of homes, together with a trend for more people to work from home following the COVID pandemic, has impacted massively on local house prices and led to extortionate rises in the local private sector rents too.
“Further compounded by the cost of living crisis, we’re seeing more and more people unable to afford to maintain their current living situations and as a direct result, increasing numbers are facing homelessness and seeking respite in temporary accommodation.
“And this isn’t all about the money, As the report which will be presented to Cabinet sets out, the council has access to a budget to build new council homes, but struggles to access suitable land for construction at the pace needed.
“We are seeking greater government funding for new affordable rented homes and changes to the national planning regime to ensure that more of the homes built meet the needs of local people. The current situation is just untenable.
“We are keen to work on this issue with our colleagues across the political spectrum, enabling a more coordinated campaign for desperately needed change.”
The Cabinet report looks at housing need and housing delivery and also directs specific requests to the government aimed at speeding up the delivery of affordable rented homes.
If the report is formally adopted at Cabinet, it will be used as the basis of a campaign aimed at lobbying the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Simon Clarke MP, for changes to legislation, regulation and funding arrangements so that more affordable rented homes can be delivered quickly.
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 issue of soaring rents and increasing homelessness was raised by a ‘councillor call for action’ at a Thanet council meeting last month.
Cllr Helen Whitehead, who made the call, said increasing homelessness 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.”
She hoped to force a formal hearing and intervention from central government but her call fell and was not debated at the meeting, partly due to the upcoming report being compiled.
“We anticipate the position to deteriorate further in the coming months”
According to Thanet council: “Recent increases in inflation, fuel and food costs and increased demand in the private rented sector as a result of COVID-19, have resulted in these affordability gaps increasing, and we anticipate the position to deteriorate further in the coming months.”
The report to Cabinet members outlines how 29% of the Thanet population are on a low income, which is 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.
In the private sector, tenants are spending over 50% of their earnings on living costs. The median income for Thanet is £25,000 and to be affordable, the National Housing Federation identifies that only 30% of income should be spent on housing costs. For all property sizes, with the exception of 1 bedroom flats, rents levels are above this benchmark.
For households in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, the gap between the Local Housing Allowance rate and the 30% percentile private sector rent for a 2 bedroom home has risen to £170.78 per month.
Private rental market
According to home.co.uk there are 89 properties currently for rent in Ramsgate. The site shows 16 three-bed homes available with an average rent of £1332pcm. The highest number of available properties are two-bed, with 44 listed, at an average £992pcm.
For Margate, 96 properties are listed as available for rent with average rental price at £1156pcm. Of these 27 are three-bed homes with an average £1481pcm rent listed. Greatest supply are two-bed homes with 36 listed at an average £923pcm rent.
Broadstairs is listed as having 69 available properties to rent, 16 are three-bed homes with an average rent of £1270.
Nationally, outside of London, the average rental property is now listed for £1,126 a month. That’s 12% higher than this time last year, and 19% higher than before the pandemic.
Housing stock report
A Kent Housing Stock report published at the end of last year said Thanet has 67,903 dwelling stock with 3,049 council properties; 4,690 private registered providers; 225 ‘other’ private sector and 59,939 private sector.
Thanet has the highest number and proportion of empty dwellings in the county (2,533, 3.7%) This represents 14.1% of the total vacant dwellings in Kent. It also has the highest number of long-term empty dwellings (1,129). This was 153 more than the previous year (an increase of 15.7%) the biggest increase seen in Kent.
The district also has the highest proportion of vacant dwellings which are long-term empty with 44.6% being empty for six months or more.
Some 2.5% (1,670) of the total housing stock in Thanet are second homes, again the highest rate in the county.
Data from Visit Kent shows a growing Airbnb sector with Thanet recording 1,089 active rentals with a rental growth of 373% between 2016 and 2019.
Last year a motion proposing planning restrictions on short term lets and a 90 day per year letting limit for entire homes in Thanet on Airbnb was brought to Thanet council but failed to secure backing for debate.