'Poor support' for vulnerable tenants exposed in investigation into HMOs

Town hall chiefs investigating the impact of HMOs in South Tyneside have called for more support for tenants.

Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 16:30 pm
South Shields Town Hall

South Tyneside Council launched a special commission to investigate the issue earlier this year following concerns growing numbers living in shared flats and houses could be fuelling a rise in crime.

The project is still gathering evidence, but has already found there is ‘poor support’ on offer to the most vulnerable people living in such accommodation.

Councillor Gladys Hobson

“There’s various reasons people are in these HMOs and that is fine, so long as there is supervision,” said Coun Gladys Hobson.

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“That is the problem we have, HMOs with no supervision on site and that’s where you start to get complaints from neighbours.”

Coun Hobson was speaking at a meeting of the council’s Place Select Committee, which heard an update on the progress of the commission.

According to this, although there are a relatively low number of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) in South Tyneside, their concentration in town centre areas, such as South Shields, means they can have an “outsized impact”.

Councillors were told tenants in HMOs were more likely to have ‘complex needs’ than other people in the borough.

Housing bosses admitted they had seen an increase in complaints about HMOs, although further investigation was needed before they would be able to say whether this was due to an improved complaints system or an increasing problem.

However, Coun Mark Walsh, cabinet member for housing and transport, reminded councillors there was additional work ‘going on in the background’ on housing in the borough, particularly on providing affordable homes.

He was backed by Coun Anne Hetherington, who said: “I think the purpose of this [commission] should be a more strategic approach, the council cannot be responsible for everything.

“It strikes me that before we start getting into too much detail we need to go back to basics and audit how many properties of each type there are.

“If we’re going to make recommendations we need to know what the issues are and pin that down – we can all say there’s a problem here or there anecdotally, but we need the evidence to be able to make what we say count for something.”