Published: 19 June, 2015
by CAROLINE MORTIMER
A LEADING poverty charity has slammed Westminster Council’s “poor record” on housing after homeowners on a Queen’s Park estate were encouraged to sell their properties through its private lettings agency.
Leaflets were recently sent out to residents in former council properties in Avenue Gardens Estate, advertising the services of CityWest Homes Residential, which boasted of its success selling homes for £450,000 at the nearby Mozart Estate.
Joanna Kennedy, chief executive of the Z2K charity, said the council’s housing strategy “simply doesn’t face up to the scale of the housing challenge”.
She added: “It admits that there is a desperate shortage of social housing and yet bizarrely, it proposes to further reduce the proportion of genuinely affordable new homes being built. The city’s record on tackling homeless and overcrowding has been poor for many years now. Unless this strategy is changed fundamentally, that record will only get worse in the years ahead.”
Labour claims the leaflets encourage homeowners in the estate to sell their homes to “buy-to-let” investors.
It comes as figures unearthed by the West End Extra show that CityWest Homes only has 224 vacant properties out of a total 11,957 homes that it owns or manages.
The figures, revealed through a Freedom of Information request, show that the council has just 9.6 per cent of the homes needed to provide housing for the 2,331 families on its housing list who are deemed “unintentionally homeless”.
Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, the former leader of Westminster’s Labour group, said: “The first duty of CityWest Homes should be to find homes for people in housing need rather than to encourage tenants to buy their flats.
“We know that at least 40 per cent of council flats that are sold end up as buy-to-let flats at extortionate rents. Council flats are public property paid for by taxpayers to house families in housing need. The latest figures show that for every 23 council flats sold off only one new flat has been built – and this is making the housing crisis even worse.”
Westminster housing chiefs admitted last week that the council “will never provide enough homes in Westminster for everyone who wants to live here” and said they were looking at investing in properties further afield. During the past year the council has bought 25 homes worth a total of £3.6million in Grays, Essex.
A Westminster Council spokesman said: “With regard to the CityWest Homes leaflet, this was distributed in April 2015. CityWest Homes Residential offers a service to the private housing market for properties which have already been sold. It is not connected to Right to Buy. The leaflet acts to highlight the services available to private homeowners should they be considering selling their property.”