My apologies for not being able to attend this meeting but I hope the 2 maps I have compiled can speak on my behalf but, just in case, here are a few words I have written to help explain my interest in HMOs and council tax exemptions.
It was back in 2015 that I submitted my first Freedom of Information request to Broxtowe Borough Council for information about HMOs and council tax exemptions.
In 2014 I had attended a meeting at Nether Street School about the growing problem of HMOs on Lower Road. I was invited because I lived in Lenton at the time and well aware of what happens when landlords are allowed to turn family homes into HMOs without any monitoring. The result was the wholesale taking over of neighbouhoods, such as the New Lenton Conservation Area where I lived,
My wife and I moved to Lenton in 1979 and by the time we left for Beeston in November 2014 95% of the 105 houses in the Conservation Area were HMOs and there was an Article 4 Direction in place banning any more HMOs in Lenton.
From conversations with Beeston residents and activists it was clear that, whilst there was concern about what was happening, Broxtowe Borough Council did not see a problem — hence my Freedom of Information request and the subsequent publishing of the data I received.
I repeated the request in 2017, 2018 and quite recently for 2019. I missed 2016 because I was seriously ill. On each occasion Council staff have been attentive and very supportive, and they continue to be.
All the information I have received has been placed in the public domain via my Beeston Week blog and shared with the Civic Society.
I am in no doubt that what I have witnessed over the past five years can best be described as the beginning of 'the Lentonisation of Beeston’ — it begins with neighbours noticing what is happening on their street, then it becomes anecdotal as neighbourhoods share their experiences, then the newly arrived HMOs begin to cluster and extend, before what has become a stream turns into torrent and, apart from a few alert councillors like Lynda and Pat Lally, who try to warn their colleagues of what is happening, the Council wakes up one day to the realisation that a whole community has disappeared beneath a flood of HMOs.
By compiling the maps I hope to persuade Broxtowe Borough Council to collect and share data on all HMOs, not just the large ones, so they can compile maps and monitor what is happening in Beeston and across Broxtowe, with a view to encouraging public discussion about the creation of housing policies which include HMOs and controlling them by the introduction of Article 4 Directions where and when necessary.
For the record I spent 21 years working as a regional and national housing officer, managing and developing supported housing for vulnerable tenants, until I retired in 2006.
Good landlords welcome HMOs, as do their tenants. Housing is too important to be left to self-regulation and chance.
Finally, as you look at the 2 maps, please read the text panels as they explain in some detail how I compiled them.
Robert Howard, 6 November 2019.
JUDY: If asked, you can say I worked for Advance Housing and Support, a registered housing association.