Karen Buck

Working tirelessly for Westminster North

Karen Buck MP

News

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Westminster City Council recently announced new and much more ambitious plans for the re-development of large areas of Church Street Ward.

These will affect pretty well everyone living in the area. Some directly, as residents in blocks of flats due to be demolished and re-built, and others because of the scale of the building work and the huge changes that will be made to the area over many years.

Many of the blocks due to be re-built were affected by the original, now much delayed, Futures Plan, which was backed by a vote of residents in 2012. However, this new plan brings in many blocks that were not included at that point. The Council is not planning any further votes on its new proposals.

I am writing to you to say:

This is the biggest and most ambitious regeneration scheme Westminster Council has attempted. The track record of delivery has not been great and it is essential that lessons are learned. Both the consultation with residents and the management of the scheme must be a lot better than in the past.

It is vital that all residents have a say in this process - asking questions and making your views known. Labour believes there should be a final vote on the revised scheme. But whatever happens the Council must ensure that the process produces a scheme that Church Street residents actually want.

Tenants (including some housing association tenants), leaseholders and private tenants will be affected in different ways. Proper and independent advice must be available to all to make sure all everyone’s interests are properly served.

There is a strong case for re-developing some blocks in Church Street, and there has been support for this in the past. Some blocks are not well designed, and are desperately in need of improvement. They have been allowed to decline without investment in recent years. There is also a need for new homes. In the absence of proper Government funding some of these will have to be higher-value private homes to raise money for extra Council and housing association homes and community facilities.

BUT

Westminster has a bad track record on providing truly affordable homes, whether to rent or buy, and we need more of these, not just more expensive luxury flats.

AND

A densely populated place like Church Street needs good community facilities - not just school places and GP surgeries, but support for parents, activities for older residents and things for children and young people to do, are essential. Pleasant open spaces are part of this vision, but they are not enough on their own.

The exhibition setting out the plans is on-line at churchstreetmasterplan.org.uk or on display at the Regeneration Base at 99 Church Street NW8 until 29 October.

Please go to the exhibition, fill in the questionnaire, and talk to your friends and neighbours.

I am keen to hear your views, so please so please email or write to me to let me know what you think. You can email me at buckk@parliament.uk

Church Street Masterplan

Westminster City Council recently announced new and much more ambitious plans for the re-development of large areas of Church Street Ward. These will affect pretty well everyone living in the...

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With Airbnb booking up 130% in a year in London, and Westminster topping the list of boroughs with short-let accommodation, I’ve written to the council for more information on the local impact. I’m all for the ‘sharing economy’ but the sector needs managing and regulating too. 


 

09/08/2017

 

Stuart Love

Executive Director City Management and Communities

Westminster City Council

 

Dear Stuart,

The impact and management of short-let/Airbnb accommodation in Westminster

I am writing to you again regarding short-let accommodation in Westminster, and to ask what further steps the Council are planning to take to respond to the problems this rapidly growing sector poses in respect of loss of residential accommodation and the impact on neighbours and communities. We all agree that this part of the ‘sharing economy’ has advantages for home-owners and visitors alike, but it needs to be properly managed and breaches of the rules swiftly and effectively enforced.

You will no doubt be aware of the research published recently by Colliers International/Hotelschoool The Hague, which found that the number of nights booked in London via the Airbnb site rose by 130% last year, from 2 million to 4.62 million, equivalent to 12,900 bookings a day. The research also indicated that the number of properties listed rose by 57%, to 138,000 and over half were made by hosts with more than one listing. Westminster is the borough with the largest number of listings, with over 150,000 stays in 2016, and five boroughs (Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Kensington and Hackney) account for half of all Airbnb stays in London.

Last year, Westminster Council suggested that 3,000 whole properties were being advertised on short let sites- a figure which rose substantially after the Deregulation Act came into effect and could have risen substantially further more recently if the Colliers research is correct. Far from the original vision of the ‘sharing economy’ we know that this suggests an increasingly commercialised operation, with rental incomes vastly exceeding those charged for Assured Shorthold tenancies

In addition, it is now some months since Airbnb announced their own plans to enforce the 90-day maximum short-let rule. This was a welcome step, but as we know, there are a number of loopholes (scope for owners moving between lettings platforms; potential difficulties in tracking addresses), and the new research clearly suggests that the result has not been to reduce short-lets overall.

As you are also aware, there has been a number of complaints about the impact of short-let properties on neighbours, including those arising from all-night parties in Little Venice and elsewhere.

It would therefore be very helpful to know what the Council is doing to monitor the changing situation and what you consider to be the next steps in:

  • Ensuring compliance with the 90 day limit
  • Helping to make sure we do not see a continued loss of much needed residential accommodation
  • Tackling enforcement issues, from the use of short-lets for parties to routine concerns about noise, rubbish, security and breaches of lease and insurance provisions.
  • Establishing what additional contribution the short-let sector can make toward the cost of enforcement.

Could you therefore let me know:

  1. Does the Colliers research align with the Council’s own monitoring of in respect of the number of lettings over the past two years?
  2. Has Westminster updated the figure of 3,000 properties now largely/exclusively in the short-let sector? Does the council have any means of monitoring occupancy levels?
  3. How many breaches of the 90- day lettings limit were a) reported b) investigated c) resulted in action in each of the last two years, and how many such files are currently open?
  4. Have there been any properties in the social rented sector a) reported b) found to be used for short-let purposes in the last two years?
  5. What steps are being taken to ensure that leasehold properties within CWH blocks are not being let in such as to compromise the lease or insurance arrangements?
  6. On how many occasions have complaints been receiving regarding noise, nuisance or anti-social behaviour and have any actions been taken with Airbnb or other lettings platforms as a result?
  7. What is the estimated net cost to the council of monitoring and enforcement of short let accommodation in the current financial year?

Thank you very much for your assistance and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

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Karen Buck

The impact and management of short-let/Airbnb accommodation in Westminster

With Airbnb booking up 130% in a year in London, and Westminster topping the list of boroughs with short-let accommodation, I’ve written to the council for more information on the...

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The rights of EU citizens in the UK

I already know from my ‘postbag’ about the potentially detrimental effects of Brexit on my constituents including the many thousands of EU nationals living in Westminster North. Citizens of other EU countries resident in the UK were excluded from voting in the referendum, and then left with uncertainty about their future. 

EU citizens not only contribute to our society: they are an essential part of our society, and certainly should not be regarded as ‘bargaining chips’.  It is shameful that the Prime Minister rejected repeated attempts to resolve this issue before Article 50 was triggered, which is one of the reasons I voted against it. 

Government Proposals

On 26 June 2017, the government finally published their proposals. They suggest that EU citizens with five years’ continuous residence (prior to a yet unspecified date) can apply for “settled status”. 

EU citizens who have been in the UK for less than five years (from another unspecified date) will be allowed to stay in the UK with “temporary status” while they build up to the five years’ residency required for settled status.  Building up the five years will mean accepting restrictions on leaving the country temporarily. This is all far too little too late. 

Currently, the majority of the 3 million+ EU citizens in the UK do not need permission to live or work here.  Under the proposal ALL will have to apply for “settled status.”  This even applies to EU citizens who already have Permanent Residency (which requires a form of more than 80 pages) or those who have been here more than 20 years.  Failure to do so would render an EU citizen unlawful and they would be committing a criminal offence by remaining in the UK after the agreed transition period.  There will be an unknown level of fee to apply. 

It is suggested that residents who gain “settled status” will be treated the same way as UK nationals in terms of benefits, pension, social security and access to public services, although unlike UK citizens they may need to show ID cards.  But "settled status" would not give EU citizens the same family or legal rights they currently enjoy.  For example, “settled status” would be lost after two years’ absence from the UK; there would be much stricter family reunion rules, and uncertainty about the right to vote in local elections. 

As your representative in Parliament I want to know what you think about these proposals, and about how the current situation is affecting your life. It would be very helpful if you could fill in  my survey here. I will use the results to campaign for full rights for EU citizens. 

I will also do my best to resolve individual problems on your behalf. Please call my office on 020 8968 7999 or email buckk@parliament.uk 

For further information on the proposals for EU citizens in UK:

EU Letter and Survey

The rights of EU citizens in the UK I already know from my ‘postbag’ about the potentially detrimental effects of Brexit on my constituents including the many thousands of EU...


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