Bromley councillors have welcomed a move to beef up the borough’s stock of council housing, with hopes set high it’ll help house more than 1,000 homeless in the borough.

Members of the council’s scrutiny committee on Wednesday gave the thumbs up to progress plans to reopen the authority’s Housing Revenue Account, meaning the council can now have more than 200 homes on its books.

It comes as the authority revealed it was spending £6,300 a year on each household in Bromley which required “emergency overnight accommodation”, such as Air BnBs and hotels.

Bromley has about 3,000 households on the housing waiting list, with roughly 1,700 currently in temporary accommodation – meaning the council could be outlaying more than £10 million pounds a year on homeless families.

Portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Peter Morgan, described the sum as a “fortune” following Wednesday’s meeting.

Welcoming the move, Cllr Morgan told the local democracy reporting service that it would allow the council to better jostle for Government grants on housing projects.

“It’ll allow us to acquire more stock for our homeless families, of which we have 1700,” he said.

“We’re currently putting them up in nightly paid accommodation, which is not ideal for them as they may be getting moved around, and it also costs the ratepayer a fortune.”

The head of Bromley’s Labour group, Angela Wilkins, welcomed what she described as a “hefty U-turn”.

However, she also took aim at the 1992 decision to fold the authority’s Housing Revenue Account.

“Labour welcomes this rather hefty U-turn by Bromley Council. Whilst the details have yet to be rolled out, the principle of providing council-owned affordable housing is one we have proposed for many years, so we are delighted,” Cllr Wilkins said.

“Asides from addressing the devastating consequences and costs of homelessness, this decision also means that in the future, housing benefit payments will not be used to line the pockets of private landlords – this money will be used to maintain and build future homes.

“If you take the long view though, Bromley residents have had a bad deal all round. Thirty years ago, the council gave all of its council housing to housing associations for just £1. As officers confirmed last night, we may now be buying some of those properties back at the current market value.

“It beggars belief really – I’d love to know what the properties we sold then are worth now!”

While further details will be unveiled later, it is believed the council will utilise a third party to manage and maintain the new and increased levels of council housing.

Bromley had been one of four London councils which still didn’t run a Housing Revenue Account, after it transferred its stock to a housing association in 1992.

At the time, councils utilised the move in a bid to attract more investment into affordable housing. Changes in legislation since have seen local authorities move back to operating Housing Revenue Accounts as rules relaxed around self-financing and investing in council housing.

With Bromley set on reopening their account, only three London authorities will remain without a HRA: neighbours Bexley, as well as Merton, and Richmond.


Council leader Colin Smith rejected assertions the council had performed a "U-turn" while adding more detail on the future actions the authority would take. 

“I’m afraid that Cllr Wilkins fundamentally misunderstands what reopening the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) actually means," he said on Friday. 
"The council is emphatically not “building Council houses” and neither is there a “U-turn".
"Opening the HRA simply provides the Borough with greater opportunities to attract significant core funding from Central Government or the Mayor for London to facilitate the building of new homes.

"Once built they will all be managed by either a Housing Association or a housing management company, in exactly the same way they have been for the past 30 years or so.

"The policy remains completely unchanged, despite the hyperbole."