Partnership to tackle anti-social homes in Telford
Academics are concerned about houses in Telford where tenants share facilities, and are teaming up with police to tackle problems.
Experts at the University of Wolverhampton said that Telford has seen an increase in the numbers of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in Telford, which they say are associated with crime and anti-social behaviour.
Dr Steve Iafrati is a social policy expert at the university’s Institute for Community Research and Development, and is working with Telford Citizen’s Advice Bureau, police, GPs, the Department for Work and Pensions, voluntary groups and other organisations to address some of the problems associated with HMOs.
He said: “It is estimated that there are over 450 HMOs in Telford. HMOs tend to have a high proportion of vulnerable tenants such as those with mental health problems, substance abuse issues, former prisoners, former looked after children and those formerly homeless.
“With housing shortages, for those on the lowest income and relying on benefits, HMOs are often the only option. For many landlords, this has created an economic opportunity to turn houses into HMOs and make large profits, often with little reason to invest in the properties or tenants’ wellbeing."
Staff from the university have been visiting HMOs and speaking to the tenants there about their issues. Some of the problems mentioned included break-ins, violence in communal areas, drug dealing and lack of hot water.
Dr Iafrati continued: “For those living in the local communities near concentrations of HMOs, there are regular complaints about crime and anti-social behaviour as well as creating a stigma for the area.
“Limiting the number of HMOs will not stop people’s demand for affordable rented accommodation that is currently not being met. At worst, this will make many of the poorest and most vulnerable people more likely to be homeless.
“The solution will lie in being able to understand and address people’s needs rather than solely through enforcement. The university will provide research and evidence to help inform solutions based on prevention rather than cure.
“Following our research, the university will make recommendations to help address some of the problems and support the hard work currently being undertaken by a wide range of organisations.
“This may include greater outreach work with young people, health advice and support, rewarding good landlords, education, volunteering opportunities in the community, and supporting places such as the Hub on the Hill in Sutton Hill to deliver services. There still exists a clear role for enforcement, but this cannot work on its own."
The university will also work with Telford & Wrekin Council, which recently appointed a Rogue Landlord Taskforce.