Below is a letter to the Leader of Westminster Council from Church Street Labour Councillor Vincenzo Rampulla
Housing in Westminster – some constructive suggestions
At last week’s Council meeting, I felt very little was said about housing in both your’s and Daniel Astaire’s speeches on the Council’s priorities for the coming year.
Despite the prevailing view within City Hall that there is a ‘North’ and ‘South’ Westminster, you will agree with me housing affects every community within this great borough.
The need for effective action to increase supply of affordable housing in all its forms; the need to effectively tackle the rough sleeping, which is a growing and distressing problem in our borough; and the desperate need to find better ways to deal with the multitude of issues Westminster’s renters and landlords face, deserve your attention. Especially at a time when Westminster faces enormous uncertainties, the cost of many of the policies in the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill are not yet known. And the council’s housing strategy has not yet been finalised.
Last week I set out three initiatives that the council could take forward this year and given they cover a number of different cabinet portfolios I am looking for your view as Leader of the Council. If you disagree about any of these initiatives I would like to know your reasons for doing so.
Firstly, the council should enforce its own planning policy and ensure that housing developments deliver at least 30 per cent affordable housing. An improvement would be the presumption that if a developer wanted to offer anything other than on-site housing, it would be on the basis of a 50 per cent contribution.
It would useful to know in how many cases in the last 5 years developments have met this 30 per cent aim as part of the council’s policy.
Secondly, Cllr Hug has put forward the need for more action on empty properties. I suggest that the council set up an action team focused on investigating and taking regulatory action on issues like: empty properties, abuse of council leases (action which I believe Cllr A Harvey is an advocate for) and right to buy fraud. Any income generated could be ring-fenced towards taking action on tackling the increasing rough sleeping in the borough.
Finally, ignoring the private rented sector in Westminster is no longer tenable. It is the largest tenure in Westminster. As I set out in my speech, it is also major contributor to the council’s need for Temporary Accommodation and therefore its cost.
The Council should set up a cross-party task group to look, in depth, at this area of housing in Westminster. It should be tasked with looking at improving supply, consumer information, what role the council should play and what role CityWest Residential can have in ensuring Westminster promotes the best possible private rented sector for its residents.
When you were looking to become the Conservative’s Mayoral candidate you said that you would “concentrate on creating new homes for hard working families”; I believe you can still do that whilst you are still Leader of Westminster Council too.
I look forward to your response.
Very best wishes,
Councillor Vincenzo Rampolla
Labour Councillor for Church Street Ward