Figures before a council meeting this week show very limited participation from the public when it comes to local meetings and walkabouts related to housing.
At some meetings just three people attended.
I’ve been meaning to cover this issue for some time. One major problem is that meetings and walkabouts exclude private renters when advertised – and private renting has grown hugely in recent years across the capital.
Even if a private renter lives in a council block, uses the same communal areas, lifts, staircases and external public spaces on an estate they are not included in adverts for housing meetings.
If disabled, renting privately and you want to go on a walkabout and highlight issues such as pavement parking, well the publicity doesn’t make you welcome.
I recall hearing from a reader who complained about chronic issues with parking affecting their mobility. After complaining, Greenwich Council stated they’d write to council tenants – ‘cos it’s an estate and must be fully council tenants right?
Yet about 80 per cent of homes in the street are now privately owned or rented. You can tell as the Better Homes program had altered features on those homes still council owned. Anyway, the vast majority of residents therefore received no letter.
It’s a very odd way to go about things in 2020. It’s not 1985 anymore. Right to buy happened – and now a great deal of those ex-council homes are buy-to-let. Many privately renting weren’t even alive when the scheme was introduced – and have never benefited from it. Their voices are ignored.
Those residents could offer crucial feedback. Of course with some issues the leaseholder will need to be involved, such as building repairs, but private tenants could certainly offer useful feedback about a whole range of issues.
Excluding private renters is another kick in the teeth for ever more people who suffer insecurity and high costs. There’s no stability of tenure with landlords able to evict with two months notice at any time. Even without that, contracts are normally a year long at best.
Rents are often two to three times above the levels that council tenants pay – and above mortgages for equivalent properties due to low interest rates. Those same high rents also prevent many saving to buy.
This issue of excluding this major demographic is one I’ve raised numerous times with the authority. They’ve stated it will change in future. Sometimes it does, then the adverts quickly revert back to council tenants and leaseholders alone.
Including private renters may not lead to a massive increase in those participating in estate walkabouts and meetings, but specifically excluding the fast growing tenure in housing cannot be helping.