Fury as family homes vanish when Isle of Dogs landlord converts to bedsits

Plea to Tower Hamlets Council to stop family homes being converted to multi-occupancy

Isle of Dogs councillors urge Tower Hamlets Council to stop family homes being turned into multi-occupancy - Credit: Mike Brooke

Family homes have been bought up on the Isle of Dogs by a property magnate and converted “by stealth” with piecemeal extensions and rented out as multiple occupations, it is claimed. 

Now Tower Hamlets councillors wants action to prevent areas becoming swamped with bedsits that could kill off communities. 

Around 9,000 properties across the East End are thought to be used like this. Many of them may not be on the council’s rental property register.

Cllr Peter Golds... calling for stricter planning guidelines to stop family homes disappearing

Cllr Peter Golds... calling for stricter planning guidelines to stop family homes disappearing from the market - Credit: Mike Brooke

“One development with town houses and flats has effectively been turned into an inter-connected student hostel,” Cllr Peter Golds told a council meeting. 

“It started with an extension on one property out back, then something on top of that, then a floor added, then dormer rooms.  

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“Suddenly all the gardens are connected. This is one large business which ought to be subject to business rates.” 

Each of the three-bed houses in East Ferry Road now has up to six or seven bedrooms squeezed in, one even having eight bedrooms, Cllr Golds has discovered. The rooms are advertised for rent at £800-£1,000 a month. There have been 33 planning applications to extend houses, 22 of them from the same owner, the East London Advertiser has learned. 

Cllr Andrew Wood... "Many family homes are being lost."

Cllr Andrew Wood... "Many family homes are being lost." - Credit: Mike Brooke

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Cllr Andrew Wood said: “Many family homes close to where I live are being lost, with many converted to multiple occupation. Where before you had one family living, you now get six or seven adults.

"But we get only the same council tax revenue, despite extra costs of services like rubbish collections and more pressure on water mains and public transport.” 

A purpose-built student hostel would need a planning permit and a levy towards public services. But a mere change of use or adding extensions avoids all this, he pointed out.  

The effect the Isle of Dogs councillors said has been to “achieve a student facility by stealth” to the detriment of neighbours in adjoining streets. 

The ruling Labour group, however, amended the Tory Opposition’s proposals to use planning rules to stop conversions for multiple occupation. It made a pledge instead to stand up for renters living in such properties and to lobby the government to extend landlord licensing schemes to take in short-term lets including Airbnb, and to support a campaign for rent control. 

Several Labour councillors declared personal interests as owners of multiple occupancy properties. 

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