Lillie Road. Picture: Google Streetview
January 9, 2024
Hammersmith & Fulham Council wants to buy a property used as a homeless shelter after its owner decided to sell, a council report has revealed. The council said it has secured the seven-room property on Lillie Road for a price “significantly below” market rate and is urging cabinet members to approve the purchase when they meet next Monday (15 January).
The property, which is the only one of its kind in the south of the borough, is owned by Home Group and run as a homeless hostel by the charity, St Mungo’s. The council offered to buy the 13-bed shelter after Home Group signalled it wanted to sell as part of a “divestment strategy” in early 2023, a report to the cabinet revealed.
Under current rules, purchases worth more than £300,000 must receive the cabinet’s seal of approval, although the exact price has not been revealed. Unlike other homeless shelters in the borough, the home offers level-access for those with mobility issues and its sale to a private buyer would have seen the shelter likely close for good.
The home consists of four one-bedroom and three three-bedroom flats and has been managed by St Mungo’s since April 2022. The report says residents are homeless or former rough sleepers with complex support needs, which means they require on-site staffing by St Mungo’s.
A report to the cabinet read, “Owing to the rising numbers of people sleeping rough in H&F (Hammersmith and Fulham) and across London, and a shortage of available buildings that are also suitable, there is no capacity to accommodate a potential loss of thirteen bed spaces elsewhere within the pathway, nor is there an appropriate alternative site to which the existing service could be relocated. There is also little appetite among provider partners to acquire the property.” It added: “A sale on the open market would likely constitute an end to the building’s current use.”
The council said it has factored maintenance and refurbishment costs into its offer to Home Group and is exploiting “all opportunities” to bring that number down further. It aims to cover the purchase using grants from the Mayor of London.
It comes as rough sleeping in Hammersmith and Fulham increased 11per cent in 2022/23 from the previous year, according to council records. The council registered 238 rough sleepers, up from 214. In the first six months of 2023/24, it has seen more rough sleepers – 303 – than in the whole of the previous year.
It also found a 21pc increase – 10,053 people – across London compared to last year. The council said the cost-of-living crisis and housing supply pressure are pushing more people to sleep rough.
Rebecca Purchase, regional head for St Mungo’s Hammersmith and Fulham, said the charity supported the council buying the property, which it said would be key to helping to end rough sleeping in the borough.
She said, “If the property was sold to a private buyer, it is likely we would lose this provision and people would lose their homes and may need to relocate far away from their personal relationships and professional connections. Against the backdrop of increasing homelessness in London, and a cost-of-living crisis this could mean more vulnerable people sleeping rough and facing the dangers that this brings. We hope the local authority are able to proceed with the purchase and St Mungo’s can continue to provide the help and support needed to the residents for many years to come.”
Hannah Howard-Jones, director of asset at Home Group, said, “As a not-for profit organisation we must ensure that the properties we own or manage bring us the greatest possible return in order for us to re-invest where our customers need it the most. Unfortunately, our property on Lillie Road was no longer supporting our overall strategy and early last year, after careful consideration, our board agreed that the only option we had was to sell it on.
“We have worked closely with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to ensure that the impact on those residents in the property were kept to a bare minimum if possible. We are delighted to see that the council has applied to purchase the property and potentially safeguard the future of those residents.”
A Hammersmith and Fulham spokesperson said, “H&F is a compassionate council – and with the cost-of-living crisis and the number of rough sleepers rising across London, it is crucial that this property continues to offer a home to those residents in need. We are determined to end rough sleeping in H&F as we continue to work with our partners to ensure we provide a full range of support including housing and health assistance when people need it most.”
Adrian Zorzut - Local Democracy Reporter