Newham Council to end relationship with Mears – in a significant change to property management in Custom House and Canning Town

Newham Council to end relationship with Mears – in a significant change to property management in Custom House and Canning Town.

As the plans for regeneration in Canning Town and Custom House progress, the Council has announced that it will transfer back into Council management a number of properties currently leased to the property management company Mears.

The ending of the Mears leases will affect around 250 properties in Custom House and Canning Town, and the Council is working with Mears to ensure the transfer is as seamless as possible for affected residents.

This change will effectively lead to the end of Mears’ role as landlord to the tenants.

Every current Mears tenant will now have a homeless assessment and, where the council can establish it has a duty to house, tenants will be offered temporary accommodation by the Council. Where it is possible, the Council will work with tenants to keep them in their current homes.

Where residents cannot stay in their present home, they will be offered alternative temporary accommodation. If any resident is not eligible for temporary accommodation, the Council will offer them support to find a suitable private rented sector home.

The council will carry out the handback of properties in batches, and intend to prioritise cases where the property condition is poor. The Council will be beginning this process next month and will be communicating directly with affected residents with details of the next steps.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said; “This marks a real victory for the residents who have had historical issues with the management of the property by Mears, which I have been committed to address from the time I was a councillor in Custom House. Since becoming the Mayor of Newham in May 2018, officers have worked tremendously hard with residents to address these issues, by challenging Mears to meet their responsibilities and now we’ve come up with an acceptable solution which causes minimum disruption for tenants.

“It has been an extremely complicated deal to secure, and I am grateful to the residents who have shown such patience as we worked towards this outcome, which I believe meets our agenda of acceptable housing management provision that meets our standards.”

“The project to end the Council’s difficult relationship with Mears is a significant one for residents. I made a manifesto pledge to deliver homes that are fit for human habitation and bringing these properties back under Council management will help us to make good on that promise.” 

The Council has been working with residents and their representatives (People’s Empowerment Alliance of Custom House – PEACH) to tackle outstanding repair and maintenance issues, and has addressed those which have been raised directly. The Council encourage residents to continue to report issues as they arise.

The properties form part of the Canning Town and Custom House regeneration plan – and will eventually be demolished and replaced. Alongside the handback of properties to the Council, the blocks in which these properties are situated will be surveyed and Newham Council will carry out works to ensure they are in good condition.

The Council recognises that the housing crisis in London affects many people in Newham, and that even sub-market rents like those charged by Mears are not affordable to all, especially where benefit caps are applied.

We know that for many families in Newham, a social rent tenancy is only affordable housing option, and can provide a platform to thrive. The Mayor pledged to build 1000 new social rent homes, as part of the kick-starting of a new generation of council house building.

In Custom House, the Mayor has recently announced that it is to be proposed to Cabinet that Private Sector tenants, who were referred to their home by the Council and have lived in the area for 5 years or more, will receive the Right to Return to a social home in the new regeneration scheme at social rent levels. The handback process will not affect this offer.

Additionally, where we are able to offer council-owned homes as temporary accommodation, these are let at social rent levels.

Currently the properties are not counted as social housing, however the rents charged by Mears are sub-market. Following negotiation between the Council and Mears last summer, the properties are now all let at Local Housing Allowance rates. This negotiation led by the Council saved tenants collectively £300,000 per year.

Residents remain at the heart of regeneration plans following an announcement by Mayor Fiaz of proposals for the most resident-focused Landlord Offer to tenants by a local authority in London.

Mayor Fiaz has confirmed that a significantly enhanced Landlord Offer will be put to the Council’s Cabinet for approval later this year. The Offer would then be presented to residents in a ballot to determine whether the regeneration goes ahead.

Alongside secure tenants, it is proposed that for the first time Private Rented Sector Tenants will also benefit from the right to return to a council home or to Housing Association-owned social housing when the programme is completed. This offer will be for those Private Rented Sector tenants, including those living in Mears properties, who have lived in the Custom House regeneration area for 5 years or more on the date the Landlord Offer is published and who have been placed in the area by the Council.

Mayor Fiaz said: “There is a significant programme of regeneration taking place in the Canning Town and Custom House area which the Council is driving. I pledged when I stepped into office back in May 2018, to initiate a sea-change in the way we work and collaborate with our residents, putting them at the heart of everything we do. The regeneration programme in Custom House is a testament to that promise. Residents are involved every step of the way of our development plans for the area, and are helping us shape the restoration of their neighbourhoods for the benefit of the whole community.”

“We propose to replicate this gold standard approach across all our proposed Newham regeneration programmes, including in Canning Town and the Carpenters Estate redevelopment.”

In taking on the role of master developer, the Council has the potential to deliver 3,500 homes on Council-owned land in Canning Town and Custom House in the next 15 years. In line with the pledge of Mayor Fiaz, it is intended that 50 per cent of these homes will be at social rent levels.

Mayor Fiaz added:  “Under my administration, Newham Council will continue to listen to our residents and all sections of the community, including local organisations like the People’s Empowerment Alliance of Custom House (PEACH).

“I am pleased that we are advancing our ground breaking approach to estate regeneration, which will bring much needed certainty for our private rented sector tenants who have lived in the area for more than five-years and placed there by the Council, including tenants currently housed in Mears managed properties.

“The proposed Custom House landlord offer for Private Rented Sector tenants will, subject to Cabinet approval, include the right to return to Council or Housing Association-owned social housing in the area being redeveloped once completed. This is an unprecedented offer and reflective of the radical housing delivery ambitions we have for Newham and its people.” 

Published: 11 Aug 2020