Residents feel angry and let down by delays to protect family homes in Thornton Heath being converted in to houses of multiple occupancy which are benefitting developers but detrimental to the area.
Two year’s ago Thornton Heath residents were assured that Article 4 would be introduced to make it more difficult for large Victorian Houses to be carved up in to bedsits.
Tellingly the council’s own evidence shows that in addition to the risk of overcrowding, HMOs affect the local environment and neighbours through increased anti-social behaviour, excessive litter, fly tipping and parking.
The fire safety team, who work on behalf of the London Fire Brigade, have provided the Council with data that shows that there have been 21 counts of HMO specific related fires in the borough since January 2015 and the Council’s HMO team have issued over 600 improvement notices in the last three years.
Last week firefighters dealt with a fire caused by a hot plate at a house on one of the worst hit roads for HMOs – Melfort Road. The fire damaged around half of the first floor of the property (firefighters and police responding to fire pictured). Luckily four people escaped to safety after being alerted by smoke detectors.
The council originally intended that specific areas of Thornton Heath with high numbers of HMOs would see the immediate introduction of Article 4 requiring owners to seek planning permission.
However, now the council plans to roll it out across the whole borough after a consultation period but not until January 2020. It insists it would be liable for compensation claims without this lengthy period of grace but the fear is it will lead to a rush of applications.
Many neighbouring local authorities in Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth are housing tenants in Thornton Heath because it is cheaper. At present, 15 out an Article 4 direction and many did it a lot quicker than Croydon is intending to.
Graham Mitchell, of the Thornton Heath Community Action Team analysed the HMO data and produced a pie chart clearly showing the north of the borough particularly the wards of Bensham Manor, Thornton Heath and West Thornton are hardest hit with some wards in the south having NO licensed HMOs where as the three combined CR7 wards have 195. The worst roads for registered HMOs are: Melfort Road 12; Brigstock Road 11; Bensham Manor Road nine and Parchmore Road six.
Over the past 10 years Croydon has lost over 900 family homes to conversion and large HMO properties. This does not include family homes lost to the current permitted development right, which remains unknown due to the inability to specifically quantify the change of uses.
Presently, multi-bedroom properties can be converted to small HMOs occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals under permitted development.
The landlord registry was meant to ensure better standards but visits are infrequent, rely on neighbours reporting issues and tip offs about unregistered HMOs. Croydon is ranked 16th out of the 19 Outer London boroughs having lower rents. The percentage of properties in Croydon under owner occupation fell between 2001 and 2011.
It is through this process that evidence has been found which shows that HMOs lead to inadequate residential accommodation. Croydon now has over 925 licensed HMOs across the whole of the borough.
The number of licensed HMO properties under the mandatory licensing scheme is likely to grow due to the introduction of the new HMO regulations, in October. The new requirements extends to include properties under three storeys with five plus occupants.
Deputy council leader Cllr Alison Butler, is facing increasing pressure to introduce restrictions earlier in Thornton Heath. “It is clear it is becoming more and more important to protect family homes in Croydon. While we recognise the need for HMOs, we can already see that in some parts of the borough there are just too many HMOs in a small area for the local infrastructure to cope.”
A copy of the Article 4 Direction, map and associated documents explaining the reason for making the Direction, will be available to view at Access Croydon and Town Hall during the six-week representation period, as well as online at www.croydon.gov.uk/HMOArticle4
Representations must be made before midnight, Friday 8 March 2019 and can be done so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or posting to; Spatial Planning Service, 6th Floor Zone B, Bernard Weatherill House, 8 Mint Walk, Croydon CR0 1EA.