Bromley’s acute housing shortage highlighted – but solutions seem elusive

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

The housing crisis affecting Bromley was highlighted in a town hall meeting this week in which both the issues of forced relocation to homes outside London and overcrowding for families were aired.

One councillor claimed housing in Bromley has become so limited that families in need of homes are being moved ‘hundreds of miles’ away from the borough.

Another said he knew of a case where two teenage girls have had to share a bedroom with their younger brother for six years.

Among the many drastic measures debated was the possibility of transforming the civic centre site into a social housing space.

Labour councillor Chris Price said the country was facing a national housing crisis that had been left to local authorities to resolve, despite limited budgets.

He said at the meeting: “In Bromley, we have over 3,000 households on the waiting list. This includes one family I’m working with who have spent six years in overcrowded accommodation, with two teenage daughters having to share a one-bedroom home with a younger brother and another child sleeping with their mother.”

The Labour Group put forward a proposal at the meeting to build a new social housing scheme on the current Bromley Civic Centre site.

The project would reportedly cost £123.2million and be funded through the GLA Grant, reserves and external borrowing.

The council had previously announced in December 2022 that that civic centre site would be put up for auction to save an estimated £17million on necessary repairs.

Councillor Simon Jeal, leader of the Labour Group, said that the group felt simply disposing of the site did not represent the best possible value for the council.

The proposed social housing scheme would provide a 320-unit project, with the Labour Group claiming the council was projected to spend over £9,000 a year per unit of temporary accommodation it operates.

Cllr Jeal said: “We know that many families are having to be placed in Gravesend, in Medway or even further.

“Not only is this plan financially prudent for the council’s future finances, it also ensures that more families can stay and remain in this borough and the place that they call home, rather than having to move hundreds of miles away in some cases.”

Conservative councillor Christopher Marlow, portfolio holder for resources, commissioning and contract management, said at the meeting that the cost of the Labour Group’s planned housing scheme on the Civic Centre site would double the council’s debt.

He said the authority’s current approach of building housing projects of a smaller scale allowed for less risk of budgets overrunning.

Council documents from an executive meeting last month said the authority had set out a target of gaining 1,000 new affordable homes to minimise the rising costs of temporary accommodation. It added that nearly 70 per cent of these units had been already sourced through acquisition schemes and building projects.

The council’s executive committee also voted last month to raise social rent for council tenants by 7.7per cent, the maximum amount allowed for a local authority.

Lib Dem Councillor Will Connolly previously said the rent rise, which has increased the weekly rent of some homes by up to £15.50, would affect the ‘most vulnerable people in society’.

The Lib Dem Group put forward a motion at the meeting to reduce the rise in social rent to 4per cent and to invest £150,000 in speeding up current housing schemes and to bring long term empty properties back into use.

Budget amendments put forward by the Labour and Lib Dem groups were not carried at the meeting. The original motion, proposed by the Conservative Group, was passed.

Pictured top: Housing issues being discussed at a full Bromley council meeting on Monday (Picture: Joe Coughlan)


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