Manorfields: homes for local people in need

Proposed scheme

Manorfields offers the opportunity for Bromley to provide a roof over the heads of local families who might otherwise find themselves with nowhere to live.

This scheme has been carefully thought through, however as a local resident you may have questions about the proposals in advance of a full planning application being submitted. You can find answers to most of these in the FAQ section of this page.

Here we give some background to the proposed project and explain why it is necessary, how it is cost effective for everyone who pays tax in Bromley and why Manorfields is a sound choice.

Introduction

Some people in Bromley on lower incomes or who face other challenges in their lives and may become reliant on benefits are experiencing increasing pressure in their daily lives. This may result in housing difficulties. Demand for homes far outstrips supply, resulting in rising house prices. This means  ever-increasing numbers of people have no option but to turn to the Council for help finding a home. Since 2011 the number of households in temporary accommodation has more than doubled to nearly 1,000. This costs Bromley around £5.2m annually and this is likely to go on rising.

Our duty to those who cannot avoid becoming homeless

Local authorities have a legal duty to help anyone who has become homeless through no fault of their own. There are many reasons why this happens, and our experience shows it can affect people from all walks of life.

Bromley Council does a significant amount of work to prevent homelessness. Ninety per cent of people who approach us are helped to stay in their current homes or find alternative accommodation independently. However when a family finds themselves with no other option but to come to us for a temporary roof over their heads, we have to take action. Failing to do so is not an option and can result in legal action and financial penalties from the government.

The future - things may get worse and costs to taxpayers will rise further

Market projections show that the gap between average market prices for rented accommodation and the ability of those least able to afford these homes, will only widen over the next few years. This is in part due to a reduction in the number of new homes being built in the borough. It is made worse by the forthcoming universal credit system, which will reduce many people’s ability to pay market rents. Over the next two years, this could result in an additional £2.6m of pressure on council budgets.

Recent changes to the way councils are funded, as well as the relatively expensive nature of housing options such as bed and breakfast, means this situation is putting a huge additional financial burden on local government budgets.

In the past the government’s housing benefit rules meant people’s full rent was usually covered, but new systems introduced since 2011 have lowered housing benefit and set payment caps. These are typically below the level of rent charged by private sector landlords who have accommodation suitable for homeless households to use on a temporary basis. Bromley, like all other local authorities, has to make up this shortfall at the expense of local council taxpayers.

To avoid this problem and to find better temporary housing solutions than those currently on offer, Bromley has explored a number of options. These include bringing privately owned long-term empty homes back into use and working with housing associations to help them buy more homes. A wide range of alternatives have been considered, but Manorfields offers the best mix of quality and cost.

Manorfields offers an opportunity to cost-effectively put a roof over the heads of families who have nowhere to go

Manorfields, which is similar to the scheme already successfully operating at Belle Grove in Orpington, is a way of creating self-financing housing which can be properly managed and offer temporary solutions for families prior to them finding a new home. Also, after a vital one-off investment to upgrade the property, the savings to Bromley council tax payers from the Manorfields proposals are estimated at around £1/3m every year.

How it will work in practice

The scheme will offer a range of housing options and will not increase the current capacity of the accommodation. We will be able to provide temporary homes ranging from small flats suitable for single parents through to larger units which could house a couple with up to three children.

The majority of residents will be families – around 45 is expected - although there may be a small number of older single people or adults with physical disabilities. Preference will be given to those families who have become homeless within the local area and who require accommodation because of working nearby, have children at a local school or have family support networks nearby. Anyone with more intensive support needs or management requirements will be diverted to alternative accommodation elsewhere. It is not planned that the scheme would accommodate single people under 18 years of age.

The council has a duty to ensure that people who are housed in this scheme are safe and secure and we would assess every prospective tenant. The scheme will be managed by Orchard & Shipman who are an experienced management company with a proven track record of successfully managing temporary accommodation in Bromley, including Belle Grove. They will provide round-the-clock staffing with full CCTV coverage and key-fob access to all parts of the complex. Strict rules will govern residents’ behaviour whilst staying at the accommodation.

We know that these measures allow this type of accommodation to meld into the neighbourhood as evidenced at Belle Grove where we have never received a complaint from local residents since it was opened in 2013. 

This type of scheme gives adults and children who have had the misfortune to become homeless due to a wide range of unavoidable circumstances a chance to move into pleasant surroundings while they get their lives back on track.