Nationally the demand for affordable housing is rapidly increasing and pressures on housing services are being seen across the country. This was acknowledged in February 2017 when the housing white paper – Fixing our broken housing market’- was published. This set out the government’s plans to reform the housing market and boost the supply of new homes in England. In London house prices are nearly double the national average at £585,000. A London household requires an income of almost £134,000 a year to afford an average mortgage however average salaries are just £35,610.
In Bexley the income required for an 80% mortgage is £79k, but mean annual earnings is £27,000.
The lack of affordable housing continues to add to housing pressures in the borough with the ratio of house prices to full time earnings increasing. Lower quartile house prices in Bexley are over eleven times the lower quartile annual earnings.
 Home Truths – National Housing Federation 2016/17
 Median and Lower Quartile Ratio of House Prices to Residence-Based Earnings – Land Registry 2016
A similar picture is seen in the private rented sector. The average London private sector rent is more than double the average for the rest of England. In Bexley median private sector rents for 2016/17 stood at £1,095 per month.
Data from the Census in 2011  shows the number of households in private rented tenancies. To help update this, the Council has examined a number of data sources in order to obtain a clearer picture of growth in the Private Rented Sector (PRS).
 Census 2011 – Tenure Data for Bexley
The Census showed 10,556 households (11%) in private rented tenancies however the latest evidence estimates that there were 96,280 total households in the borough in 2015, of which 15,335 (14%) were in the PRS showing how the PRS market has grown in Bexley in recent years.
Pressure on incomes
At the same time that housing costs have been rising there has been considerable pressure on household incomes. The median annual income by individual is £27,108 (2017) which compares to £28,927 for London (£28,238 for outer London), and £23,743 for England . Bexley ranks in the bottom quarter for London at 24th out of 32 boroughs with a median income calculated.
A series of ongoing welfare reforms which started in 2013 and continue to be rolled out have also had an impact on the affordability of housing in recent years, These include the capping of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates until 2020, the benefit cap and lower level benefit cap, removal of the spare room subsidy and the ongoing roll out of Universal Credit. The Homelessness Reduction Act also came into force on 1 April 2018 and places new duties on local authorities regarding the prevention of homelessness and assistance provided to those at risk of homelessness.
At the end of November 2017 there were 13,818 households in receipt of housing benefit in Bexley and of these 9,518 were in Housing Association properties and 4,301 were private tenants. If you have a private landlord and need help to pay the rent then how much housing benefit you can get is calculated using the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate which is effectively a ceiling rent level for housing benefit in the private rented sector. LHA has many of the same rules as housing benefit, but there are some extra rules that limit the amount of help you can get for a private rented home.
Local Housing Allowance rates as of May 2018 were:
|Weekly maximum housing benefit ceiling rate (LHA)||Monthly maximum housing benefit ceiling rate (LHA) (x52/12)|
Nationally LHA rates have been frozen since April 2016 and will remain the same until April 2020. As the cost of private renting has increased the gap between maximum LHA rates and rents has added to the issues of affordability of housing and increased demand for housing services.
This has also had an impact on household disposable income. The gap between LHA and average rents in Bexley is, on latest figures, £117 a month for a two bedroom property and £100 for a three bedroom place as the following chart shows. This gap will have to be made up from household income.
 ONS, Annual Survey of Hours & Earnings (ASHE), Resident based median earnings (GBP) Provisional 2016 and Valuation Office Agency Private rents all tables – 2016/17
 Stat-Xplore DWP benefit statistics
Household budgets are also under pressure from other housing costs for example fuel costs. A household is considered to be fuel poor if: they have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level); and, were they to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line. The fuel poverty gap is the difference in pounds between the required energy costs for each fuel poor household and the nearest fuel poverty threshold.
In 2015, the latest figures available, the average fuel poverty gap (the amount needed to meet the fuel poverty threshold) in England was estimated at £353. The proportion of households in Bexley who are considered to be in fuel poverty is 7.6% (7,202 households)This is lower than the overall proportion for London at 10.1% and England at 11% but in some parts of the north of borough it increases to 12% .
 Sub-Regional Fuel Poverty Data – 2015
Demand for housing
Bexley is an attractive place to live as it has some of the lowest rents in London and is one of the safest boroughs to live with a low crime rate. It is greener than most other London boroughs with over 100 green spaces and parks for residents to enjoy and has a low unemployment rate. As at March 2017, 89% of schools in Bexley were judged good or outstanding in line with the national average and 84% of learners were in schools judged good or outstanding.
Bexley is similar to London and the rest of the country with long housing waiting lists and increases in homelessness and the numbers in temporary accommodation.
There are currently over 6,500 households on the housing register. This compares to 227,549 households on the Housing Register across London in 2016, an average of over 7,000 (excluding City of London) in each borough.
In each year there are approximately 600 social rented lettings which are made available to the Council to nominate tenants into these properties. This is achieved through a choice based lettings approach. Through this approach the applicant’s circumstances are assessed and they are then placed in categories of need. These categories of need are then grouped into bands which range from 1 to 4 with 1 being the highest need. In 2017/18 the breakdown of the nominations revealed that 20% went to those in band 1, which includes those who are under occupiers or those who are severely overcrowded. Those in band 2 had 58% of the nominations, those who are homeless and those who have a medical priority. The majority of the remaining nominations related to sheltered schemes.
Families who are assessed as being overcrowded, according to the Housing Act 1985 definition, are placed within the highest priority band (Band 1) for social housing. Currently there are 29 households who are in this position. Overcrowding is also a measure of demand for housing. The 2011 Census showed that of the 92,604 households in Bexley, 4.7 % (4367) were overcrowded compared to 11% for London. A household is defined as overcrowded in the census if it has a bedroom occupancy rating of -1 or less (1 or over bedrooms less than it is assessed as needing due to household composition).
|Overcrowded Household by type:||Number of Households:|
|Owner occupied or shared ownership||1944|
The Census also indicated that 61,955 households (67%) were under-occupied compared to 49% across London as a whole. A household is defined as under-occupied in the census if it has a bedroom occupancy rating of +1 or more (1 or more bedrooms more than it is assessed as needing due to household composition).
In Bexley the number of households who are on the housing register and are assessed as being in priority need because they are overcrowded is 29. This assessment is based on the statutory definition of overcrowding contained within the Housing Act 1985.
In addition to this number there are a further 1,500 who have also been assessed as requiring an additional bedroom, according to the definition of the “bedroom standard” which states that children of different sexes over the age of 10 should not have to share a bedroom and children over the age of 16 should have their own bedroom.
Homelessness and temporary accommodation
The number of households accepted as homeless by local authorities and the number of households in temporary accommodation (TA) continues to increase in England.
Households accepted as homeless in England have increased by 7.5% when comparing 2016 to 2012 and households in TA have increased by 41% when compared to 2012. The growth in demand for housing services is particularly prevalent in London where there has been an increase of 40% in TA and a 17.5% increase in households accepted as homeless from 2012 to 2016.
A similar trend can be seen in Bexley as the following table shows. On current projections we will have seen a near doubling in the number of homeless acceptances in 2018-19 compared to 2012-13. According to the DCLG Rough Sleeper Statistics there were also 16 rough sleepers in Bexley in 2017.
 Office for National Statistics, Part of 2011 Census Analysis, Overcrowding and Under-occupation in England and Wales Release, 2014
 Census 2011 – Occupancy Data for Bexley
 Shelter Databank Data
Housing acceptances and allocations – Actual and Projections, Bexley (2012/13 – 2018/19)
|Year||Total lettings||Number let to homeless||Number accepted as Homeless||Difference in acceptances and supply||Numbers in Temporary Accommodation|
Bexley Households in priority need accepted as homeless
 DCLG Rough Sleeper Statistics 2016ll
The main cause of homelessness in Bexley in 2016/17 was the loss of private rented accommodation at 34%. The reason given by landlords for the grounds of possession is that they no longer want to rent the property. However, very often landlords are re-letting the property at a higher rent as soon as the existing tenant is evicted.
The second highest cause of homelessness in 2016/17 was exclusion from home, either from parents, friends of relations at 28%. Other reasons include domestic violence, leaving prison or hospital and harassment.
The significant increases in the number of accepted homeless households along with a reduction in the number of social lettings made available in Bexley has resulted in rapid growth in the number of clients in temporary accommodation (TA). Based on the current average levels of acceptances of homelessness and allocations of properties to those in priority need it is estimated that the number of people in TA will continue to grow and reach approximately 1,640 by 2018/19.
Bexley has also seen significant growth in the number of children in TA which has increased by 358% from 297 children in TA at the end of 2011 compared to 1362 children in TA at the end of 2016 as is shown in the following graph.
 Shelter Databank Data for Bexley
Children in Temporary Accommodation
Homelessness Reduction Act
The Homeless Reduction Act came into force in April 2018. It places duties on local authorities to intervene at earlier stages to prevent homelessness, irrespective of whether or not an applicant has ‘priority need’ or may be ‘intentionally homeless’. The new duties include:
- Providing free information and advice on preventing and relieving homelessness and the rights of homeless people, to all residents, to include information tailored to the needs of particularly vulnerable groups;
- An enhanced prevention duty extends the period a household is threatened with homelessness from 28 days to 56 days, meaning that local authorities will intervene to prevent homelessness at an earlier stage;
- A new duty for those who are already homeless will mean that local authorities will work with them for 56 days to help secure accommodation to relieve their homeless.
The current service we provide mainly focuses on those clients who are in priority need. The main change for Bexley will therefore be in increasing the level of support offered to non-priority cases and ensuring clear pathways are in place to provide alternate support.
Housing conditions in Bexley
The English Housing Survey reported that nationally in 2015 approximately 19% of homes failed to meet the decent homes standard and the private rented sector (PRS) had the highest proportion of non-decent homes (28%) while the social rented sector had the lowest (13%). Amongst owner occupier homes in England 18% failed to meet the standard.
The English Housing Survey has identified a higher prevalence of poor housing in the private rented sector compared to other tenures and in the current market the private rented sector continues to grow. In 2015/16 the private rented sector was greater than the social rented sector with 20% of households in the private rented sector compared to 17% for the social rented sector. The number of families in the private rented sector has also increased from 30% to 36% between 2005/06 and 2015/16. In England private renters spend a greater proportion of their income on housing at 35% of their household income compared to 28% for social renters and 18% for those with a mortgage.
Standards of Housing are governed by the Housing Act 2004 which provides for a system to assess housing conditions known as the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. This enables defects in dwellings to be identified and creates a statutory minimum requirement for housing across all tenures. It enables the identification of minor hazards or Category 1 hazards where there is an immediate threat of harm.
In 2015/16 Bexley had 366 dwellings in the PRS that following an inspection were found to have one of more category 1 hazards and the total of PRS dwellings with category 1 hazards which were made free from those hazards as a direct result of action by Bexley was 262. In order to be classed as a category 1 hazard there needs to be a real and present risk to health. This would include such things as dangerously unsafe electrical installations.
Between January 2015 and November 2017 there were 321 household fires in the London Borough of Bexley. Of these 47% were in single occupancy households, 18% in flats/maisonettes up to 3 storeys, 13% in flats/maisonettes 4-9 storeys, 8% in self-contained sheltered housing and 7% in flats/maisonettes of 10 or more storeys. There are 103 private tower blocks in Bexley of which 61 are 4 storeys or more.
Bexley has developed a risk based programme of inspections for all high rise blocks in Bexley, following the Grenfell tragedy. Owners of these properties have been required to submit a detailed Fire Risk Assessment and evidence how any identified hazards are being resolved.
 English Housing Survey 2015/16
 LA Housing Statistics Data Return 2015/16
What we are doing
The Council is embarking on the development of a Housing Strategy and a 10-year plan in which we set out our approach to the housing market, identifying the interventions which will deliver positive housing outcomes for our residents. Although the plan will consider housing interventions, it’s not just a question of numbers and bricks and mortar, its impact is felt across all aspects of the borough’s well- being. Working with our partners, we aim not just to build new homes, but to create sustainable, healthy, high quality neighbourhoods where people want to live, play, learn and earn. Housing and housing related activity can have a positive impact on the economy of the borough, the health of residents and the local environment. This is why the plan is so closely linked to our Corporate Plan to 2027 and the Growth Strategy; it represents housing’s contribution to that overall plan and vision. It will also have regard to and help inform other Council strategies such as the Learning Disabilities Strategy, Autism Strategy, Homelessness Strategy and Older Persons Living- Well Strategy and Preparing for Adulthood Strategy.
Strategic Housing Market Assessment
In order to inform a future Housing Strategy the Council has commissioned a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA). The output will provide the Council with guidance on the extent of overall housing need within the borough, in terms of type, tenure and size, as well as the need for affordable housing, and the specific housing needs of particular groups. The evidence base will be analysed via desk top surveys, a randomised household survey and stakeholder responses from commissioners and partners which will be reviewed and conclusions/priorities fed into a 10- year borough wide housing strategy.
A new Housing Strategy Board has been established under the Chairmanship of the Chief Executive which will steer the development of an action plan based on objectively assessed need, reflecting the challenges from a growing and aging population, the lack of affordable housing, the need to increase supply, offer of tenure choice whilst aiming for lifetime neighbourhoods.
London and the wider South continue to experience significant pressure for new homes. Bexley is ready to play its part in meeting this demand but this is only possible with the right supporting infrastructure in place alongside quality development. Growth is already taking place and Bexley has adopted a Growth Strategy setting out the key principles for good growth over a 30-year time scale from 2020 to 2050 to ensure growth is managed to benefit local people and bring benefits to transport connectivity, economic prosperity and skills.
Bexley’s Growth Strategy aims to create a borough of contrast and choice of living styles for all life stages and tenures, through preserving and enhancing the best areas of family housing to high quality, compact, mixed use including live/work, and higher density development in locations with good transport links, service provision and regeneration potential. The arrival of the Elizabeth Line providing services to Abbey Wood will provide fast reliable links into central London and beyond. Further transport improvements could enable the development of large underused sites around stations in the north of the borough
Good growth will be secured by focussing new residential development on a series of well-connected public transport nodes, making the most of Bexley’s riverside location and industrial heritage. Core industrial areas retained for employment uses will be improved and intensified, fostering the growing movement of artisans and other manufacturers. The borough’s valued suburban heartland and quality open spaces will be preserved and enhanced. Shopping, culture and leisure facilities will be vibrant, supported by innovative industries and businesses. Subject to the provision of the right levels of infrastructure, in the right locations, Bexley’s Growth Strategy sets out how up to 31,500 new homes and 17,500 new jobs can be delivered across the borough.
Empty Properties – The Council is also committed to bringing empty properties back into occupation as bringing an empty property back into use can provide an income for the owner, provide a home and secure the property from vandalism, dilapidation and depreciation. Various loans and grants are available to help bring empty properties back into use. The Council has an Empty Property strategy, one of the key elements being the offer of a grant and loan in return for nomination rights to the property through the Councils private sector leasing scheme.
- Bexley Home Choice – is a choice based lettings service for residents that have been assessed and awarded the appropriate priority which allows applicants on the housing register to place bids on properties they are interested in.
- Affordable housing – We work with housing associations which develop affordable home ownership schemes. These schemes are designed to help people who are unable to afford to buy their own home or rent a good quality home on the open market. Information can be found on Homes for Londoners, and Help to Buy websites.
- Support for Landlords – Landlords and letting agents can use a dedicated contact form to let the Council know of any concerns about their tenants. The council can work with landlords and tenants to help resolve problems early on before they reach crisis point.
Licensing Scheme – under development to require additional licensing of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) across the borough and selective licensing of private rented sector properties in defined areas mainly in the North of the borough with the highest levels of ASB/nuisance. The scheme aims to address poor quality housing and control HMO’s in the Borough. It will require the condition of a property to comply with specific standards relating to fire safety, provision of amenities as well as space standards and the licence holder will also need to be required to be deemed suitable by the local authority.
- Overcrowding – the allocations service determine whether a household is overcrowded using a set criteria and assign them a priority banding as appropriate. Social housing association tenants who are overcrowded can apply for inclusion on the housing register for a move to a larger property. Social housing tenants may also alleviate overcrowding through a mutual exchange.
- Housing Prevention, Assessment & Support Service – provides help with managing rent arrears and other debts, budgeting household finances, advice around benefits, employment and training, sourcing and securing your own property, advice and support on your current tenancy and getting in touch with the right people and services to help.
- Conditions – The Private Sector Housing team deals with requests for advice and assistance from tenants regarding housing conditions. The team inspects properties to assess potential risks to health and safety, and where necessary require landlords to make any necessary repairs/improvements. The team will also investigate complaints about the conditions of neighbouring properties where it affects another property, it is vacant or there are concerns about the welfare of the person living at the property and their difficulties in coping are affecting others
- Fire Safety: London Fire Brigade Initiatives – Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV) are an integral part of the Fire Authority’s key aim to reduce accidental fire deaths and injuries. Residents are far less likely to have a fire in their home if they have received a home fire safety visit. Even a small fire in a home can lead to substantial damage, which could be expensive to repair and leave residents unable to stay in their property for a number of weeks therefore firefighters visit residents and provide you bespoke advice, based on the household and lifestyle, to minimise the risk of a fire and may fit free smoke alarms during the assessment. Arson proof letterboxes and fire retardant bedding can also be provided where there is clear evidence of need and a hoarding strategy is in place to reduce the risks associated with hoarding behaviour.
Fire Safety Bexley employs 2 Fire Safety Officers who have carried out additional checks in light of the Grenfell Fire. There are 103 private tower blocks in Bexley of which 61 are 4 storeys or more. Preliminary inspections have been undertaken for all private tower blocks, risk assessments have been obtained and each block identified as high, medium or low risk. The fire officers have also assessed fire safety for social care in residential care homes, supported living and schools.
- Staying Put Service – Home Improvement Agency for older, vulnerable and disabled residents of Bexley, offering help and advice on home repairs, improvement and adaptations. Staying Put aims to help people remain in their own homes in comfort and safety.
- Handyperson Service – a small team of experienced Handypersons that visit and carry out small repairs and adaptations to the homes of Bexley residents who are over the age of 60 and/or in receipt of a disability benefit.
- Loan scheme for vulnerable owner occupiers – An interest free loan available to vulnerable homeowners to carry out urgent health and safety repairs to their properties.
- Home Fit Scheme – for owner-occupiers which offers help and assistance to older homeowners who wish to move to smaller accommodation or are moving into a care home. This includes advice on the options available including leasing your existing home to the Council for a guaranteed monthly income and support to move to a more suitable home.
- Disabled Facilities Grants – for people having difficulty getting around their homes or in using the facilities. For private or housing association properties, the disabled facilities grant is available for a range of work that will help a disabled person remain in their home and for owner occupiers an interest free loan may be available to adapt the home or move to a more suitable property.
- Sheltered Housing – generally for those aged 55 or over, reflecting a minimum age qualifying criteria which is relatively young compared to actual client group age which is probably closer to 70. sheltered accommodation is designed for the needs of older people, enabling them to maintain an independent lifestyle; however, the traditional sheltered model does not always adapt to changing needs and can become outmoded as low level of support are assumed so accommodation/care available may not adapt to an individual’s needs. The Council is working with partners to review the tenure choices for the elderly, in particular the provision of extra care or independent living schemes which can adapt to changing needs and help prevent or delay admission to residential care.