Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Panorama - Rogue Landords ripping off the taxpayer

Last nights Panorama on poor landlords who are using Housing Benefit to rip off the taxpayer was only one side of the horror story.

The other was the misery of the victims. Helpless, sentenced to deprivation by profit for uncaring slum landlords.

Last nights programme may have focused on Newcastle and Tameside but it could well have been Hyndburn and whilst the BBC were innacurate in explaining the legislation, the thrust was correct.

Panorama on bbc website
Panorama on BBC iPlayer- The_Great_Housing_Rip_Off/

The BBC mixed up Selective Licensing (Landlord Licensing) and Management Orders within the scheme. It did however succeed in highlighted that the law is still stacked in favour of the bad landlord.

Grant Shapps Housing Minister has at last acknoweledged the problem both to me privately and on Panorama where he similarly stated;

"I am fed up of money going to bad landlords who shouldn't be operating in this sector" - Grant Shapps Panorama 25 October 2010. This is a figure that the Minister must take seriously and must take urgent action to reduce.

Grant Shapps accepted the view by the Chief Exective of the Chartered Institue of Envornmental Health Officers that £3.5billion of tax payers money is going to poor and irresponsible private landlords.

Hyndburn Council brought in on the 1st October the biggest Selective Licenincing Scheme

It is clear that the sector needs to accept it's responsibility. For me that responsibility goes far beyond renting single units. As a resident myself in a slum landlord area where Selective Licensing has been introduced I want to be sure that the value of my community, my neighbourhood, and my family home is protected within normal housing markets and not a boarded up ghetto like the Royds Street area in Woodnook.

It is clear this issue is gaining major traction and I have been working nationally with Shelter, CIH and Empty Homes Agency on a regular basis to develop strategies that don't simply pander to the problems but provide tenants and their owner occupier neighbours with a 'decency guarantee'.

The 40% of indecent homes in Hyndburn will be targeted and the outcomes set at 0% driving £millions of private sector housing investment.

Where there is resistance to a decent society that local authorities have robust powers to intervene in an industrial way, rather than pepper potting solutions to the widespread problem.

Today the debate took a further step forward with the Scottish Housing Minister calling for 'hit squads' to be employed to target the worst offenders in the private rented sector.

We cannot allow ourselves to put profit before society, greed before compassion, self interest before care for others. I will continue to campaign not for incremental change, but sweeping reforms.

From the BBC today...

Slum landlords could be tackled by special council "hit squads" under a suggestion made by a Scottish government minister.

Housing minister Alex Neil put forward the idea after Holyrood's public petitions committee heard about problems in Glasgow's Govanhill area.

He said some living conditions in the area were "totally unacceptable for the 19th, never mind the 21st Century".

Mr Neil said he would consider granting councils additional powers.

And he said both the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council were determined to tackle the problems in Govanhill.

He added: "The kind of imaginative initiative I would like us to look at is the possibility, for example, of establishing a special hit squad."

Mr Neil suggested this could be used to ensure landlords were complying with the registration scheme which was brought in to protect tenants from rogue landlords."

Concerns have been raised over the effects of conditions on health

'It's very, very bad for my kids'
He added that this could help "break the back of this slum landlord problem in Govanhill".

The minister stated: "We actually need to clear them out and sort them out, and maybe we need a special hit squad."

The committee earlier heard about problems with infestations of cockroaches and bedbugs in Govanhill.

Committee convener Frank McAveety, who is also the local MSP, told how one resident had 14 rats in their back garden after rubbish built up.

SNP backbencher Anne McLaughlin said she had been shocked by what she witnessed during the committee's visit to the area.

She said: "I'm not easily shocked, I've seen some terrible things, but I was absolutely horrified with what some people were having to put up with in terms of living conditions. It was an absolute disgrace."

Anne Lear, the director of Govanhill Housing Association, had earlier said the area should have "some kind of special status".

She told MSPs: "The reason we say that is because there is nowhere else in Scotland that has 1,200 unimproved properties, 75% at least of which are owned by the private sector and are not being regulated."

The special evidence session came as a result of a petition to parliament submitted by Govanhill Housing Association on behalf of residents from the area, on the south side of the city.

Tackle shortages

Govanhill has some of the most severe housing problems in the UK, with an estimated 1,200 slum flats.

Ms Lear raised concerns over links with a growing number of private slum landlords to agency gangmasters and organised crime.

She said tens of millions of extra pounds needed to be pumped into the Govanhill area alone, to bring homes up to standard.

The cross-party petitions committee is hoping the evidence it heard could influence the Scottish government's Housing Bill, which aims to boost affordable homes and improve conditions in housing across all sectors.

The proposed legislation, currently going through parliament, aims to update laws on private landlord registration, the licensing of houses in multiple occupation and dealing with disrepair in private homes.

The bill would also abolish the right to buy for all new council and social housing tenants to tackle shortages in rented homes.