Published: 17 May 2023
- Property MOTs and tenants’ charter among suggestions
- Commission says city faces “an uphill battle” as council looks to ‘bold and creative’ solutions to housing crisis
Westminster City Council has formally responded to over 30 key recommendations in the Future of Westminster Commission’s Housing Review.
Last July, Cabinet agreed to create the Future of Westminster Commission to review and make recommendations on the delivery of key council services to help deliver a Fairer Westminster.
Within the Housing Review, three lines of enquiry were created for the Commission to advise on:
• increasing the supply of genuinely affordable housing to meet housing need in the city;
• options for improving the way the Council responds to homelessness and housing need;
• the quality of services provided to the Council’s own tenants and leaseholders.
The housing review was conducted by residents, experts and local leaders with decades of industry experience. Some suggestions include property MOTs for vulnerable residents, a tenants’ charter and a stricter definition of affordable housing.
The council’s Cabinet, at a meeting on 15th May, has agreed to all of the 31 key suggestions and is now looking at how to take those forward, do further development work, or consider as part of other plans.
As well as recommendations for improving residents’ experience and increasing the construction of truly affordable homes the report also outlines where changes could be made to better support those experiencing homelessness and those sleeping rough in central London.
The commission is under no illusion about the scale of the challenge facing local authorities and describes tackling the housing crisis as ‘an uphill battle’.
Setting the scene, the report highlights the ‘city’s … extraordinary contrasts of richest and poorest’ with some of the UK’s most deprived estates next door to the nation’s wealthiest neighbourhoods.
The Commission also endorses many of the new policies the council has adopted in recent months, namely, shifting the emphasis away from building intermediate homes toward creating more social housing and the creation of a Corporate Housing Improvement Programme which will enable the authority to adopt many of the recommendations set out in the review.
While positive about the direction of travel the review also urges the organisation to continue exploring new ideas.
Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Housing Services, Liza Begum, said:
Listening to the voices of residents, understanding their problems and putting their experience at the heart of our services will make a huge difference.
“The thoughtful contributions of the residents and experts has already shaped our improved response to tackling damp and mould. Their continued involvement will help us decide the next steps as we create a better, more responsive, housing service.”
Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Climate Action, Regeneration and Renters, Matt Noble, said:
Bold and creative action is needed if the council is serious about getting to grips with the housing crisis.
“The commission has helped us to refocus on housing and commit to building another 300 truly affordable homes, but this is just the start.
“Drawing on the expertise of some of the sector’s most innovative thinkers will bring the very best ideas to Westminster and broaden our understanding of how we might squeeze every last home out of development in the city, whilst always being mindful on the impacts of existing communities and ensuring they are at the heart of our decision making."
The Future of Westminster Commission’s Housing Chairman, Steve Hilditch, said:
Our review of Housing contains a really positive progress report on what the council, supported by the Commission, has achieved in the first year of administration.
“But we’ve also sets out some challenges for the future. It is vital to keep up the pace of reform, an excellent first year needs to be followed by even more intensive action, delivering all the initiatives that have been started, especially in housing supply where the council's mission must be to make sure that no opportunity to provide social rented homes is missed.
“Investing in homelessness services will be critical because numbers are likely to continue to rise. The key areas are prevention, making sure decision-making is as good as it can be, and providing more support to households in temporary accommodation.
“It’s also vital that we see investment in services to tenants and leaseholders, especially repairs. The council is doing innovative work on damp and mould but must ensure that the scale of activity meets the scale of the problem."
The Future of Westminster Commission convened a core group and established four workstreams with additional Commission members (Housing, Economy & Employment, Energy & Green Transition, Fairness & Equality).
Read the review in full here : Appendix 2 Future of Westminster Commission - Housing Review.pdf
and the Council’s formal response here.