Subsidy for slum landlords stinks - MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

I’m really not sure what to make of Peterborough City Council’s new scheme to “assist” (that means subsidise with your cash) slum landlords with housing repairs using £1.2 million of public money from the capital budget.

Yes – these are landlords currently collecting rents for tenants already living in their substandard or dangerous properties – but who apparently cannot afford to repair and maintain their own properties properly or meet the appropriate regulatory and licensing arrangements.

Apparently, we’re meant to be sympathetic to these folk who take issue with a basic requirement not to allow a property to be “seriously overcrowded!?!” 900 of them lacked gas safety certificates and worse. That’s YOUR money which could build new homes or give local working families a lift up by paying their deposit on a new house via rent or mortgage.

Scrub that. I do know what I think. It stinks.

By a huge coincidence, they’re the same “community” landlords who have complained bitterly and used every legal method at their disposal to delay and thwart efforts to clean up residential lettings via a Selective Licensing scheme in Central Peterborough and it now looks like city councillors and officers have buckled in the face of such pressure.

Now, these noisy few expect the taxpayer to foot the bill, although they will pay a nominal management fee to the city council to collect the rent and pay back the preferential loan for works that they should be undertaking themselves anyway. Oh and they’ll still own the properties at the end of the proposed five-year lease with Peterborough City Council. Homes that were often bought as buy-to-lets anyway.

Am I missing something? I think the technical term is “moral hazard”. What message does it send to good and ethical landlords in our city who presumably have to pay for the upkeep of their own properties which after all are their own capital assets? Isn’t it completely undermining the whole point of the licensing scheme, if we choose to reward slum landlords (at average £3,500 a pop) and allow them to stay and continue to ply their dubious trade in the lettings market?

How about selling your property on the open market if you can’t run it properly? Is the policy going to improve run down areas like Millfield, Eastgate and New England? Doesn’t it further demonstrate how out of touch the city council is, regarding the concerns of decent people who live in these areas, articulated so consistently by MANERP chairman Brian Gascoyne?

Peterborough City Council thinks what we need is a lot of carrot but where’s the stick eh? Aren’t we embarrassed that our city has recently featured on Channel 5’s “Britain’s Rogue Landlords”? Why aren’t these people in court? Why are they not named and shamed? Why are their tenants more deserving than the hundreds on the housing waiting list to whom the money could be better directed?

We need to know why paying out this cash will allegedly drive up health outcomes more than say allowing young couples to buy these houses and convert them at their own expense, thus improving the residential neighbourhoods? Are the applicants for this programme (dodgy landlords) self-selecting and what methodology has been used to assess their merits? How will the legal agreements and loan arrangements be prepared and at what cost? What pressure has been exerted on council officers? Why hasn’t this policy been properly debated by the City Council Cabinet?

I fear that the council has taken a wrong turn and is failing to deal with the fundamentals.

They are either committed to cleaning up slum tenancies and protecting tenants and improving neighbourhoods or they’re not.

They need to reconsider this policy before it goes any further.

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