Last Tuesday 12th October, local MP Janet Daby hosted a public meeting in St Andrews Church Hall about the increasingly problematic issue of HMO development on the Estate. Several council officials and local Councillors attended, as well as around 150 members of the public. The venue was facilitated by the ACS and the Church Hall committee.
WHAT IS AN HMO?
HMO stands for House in Multiple Occupation. According to the government:
Your property is an HMO if both of the following apply:
- at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than one household
- toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities are shared
WHY ARE THEY A PROBLEM?
Many HMOs are well run and provide decent housing for people who may not be able to afford other accommodation. They definitely have a place among all the other housing options in a city. However, they are increasingly seen by some investors as a quick way to make money, and a number of unscrupulous companies develop them with no regard for nearby residents, packing in as many people as possible in an effort to get the biggest return on their capital. The lives of the tenants and local residents can be blighted and all sorts of problems ensue.
WHAT’S HAPPENING ON THE CORBETT ESTATE?
Excessive and poor quality HMO development in the wards south of the Corbett Estate in recent years led to the council using statutory powers (unfortunately involving a very long process) to crack down on their proliferation in those areas. Sadly, that seems to have pushed the problem up into our neck of the woods – the HMO developers have simply brought their bad practices into an area the council has less control over.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE MEETING?
Council officials came in for a lot of flak for allowing the HMO situation to get so bad. Many people were very angry and told their own frightening stories of HMOs being developed next door or in the near vicinity. However, it soon became clear that the council’s powers to stop the worst excesses of the developers are very limited – both by years of cuts to their budgets and by planning laws forced on them by central government. The council would like to be able to do a lot more to help, but due to various factors it will be around 18 months before they can offer us better protection in terms of requiring developers to apply for planning permission. The issue is much wider than just Lewisham of course – it impacts many (usually Labour-voting) areas of London – and Janet Daby said she would raise it in Parliament.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
If you feel strongly about this issue, please get in touch with the Archibald Corbett Society (email firstname.lastname@example.org). Together with the Corbett Residents Association we want to see what can be done to stop further HMO development on the Estate. Such developments run completely contrary to the ethos of Archibald Corbett when he created our estate, as well as potentially making the lives of many residents a lot worse.
We know this is an incredibly difficult task, given the way the planning system in this country is so heavily weighted in favour of the developers, and given the nature of some of the companies. But if the community stands together we may achieve something.