Harlow Council explain large number of empty council houses

News / Tue 31st Aug 2021 at 01:14pm

OVER the past few weeks there has been much discussion on our website and social media platforms regarding access to council housing.

As people had made reference to empty council properties that “just seem to be lying empty”, we thought this would be a good time to ask Harlow Council to tell us how many empty properties they have.

A spokesperson said:

The situation changes on a daily basis with homes being let and becoming vacant.

Council voids (empty homes) as of 26 August 2021:

·         85 properties are with HTS having void works completed of these 65 require major works and 20 require minor works.

·         44 property offers are currently in progress  – staff are in various stages of verification checks and offers made and pending. The checks are required to ensure the allocation of social housing is offered to those in most housing need.

·         14 properties have been let this week. 

·         13 properties are currently being advertised and 18 properties will be advertised next week.

·         5 accompanied viewings have taken place this week.

Unfortunately, the pandemic and lockdowns has created a backlog of void (empty) council properties. The current average turnaround time for re-letting an empty home is 42 days.

During lockdowns the council followed Government guidance at each stage and reviewed its services to limit any risk of spreading the virus to residents, HTS operatives and council staff.

A roadmap for the reopening of council services was produced and this has driven the recovery of different housing activities following the easing of restrictions.

Recovery plans for housing services build on the necessary changes already implemented and seek to establish a strong recovery as the town comes out of the pandemic. The recovery plan for voids takes into account the local and national implications arising from various lockdowns with staff still having to deal and manage within Covid issues.

Councillor Simon Carter, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “I know that the number of current void properties will come as a huge frustration for those who are waiting to bid for a council home at this time.

It is not the situation that any of us want to be in, but the pandemic had a major impact on work. The purchase of 45 homes by the council earlier this year also added to the workload as many required works and checks before they could be let.

However a majority of those properties have now been let providing more homes for local families. The council and HTS are working together and focussed on improving the void situation with a recovery plan in place. The latest figures show that staff are working hard to get homes re-let as the town continues to recover from the pandemic. However, it is going to take time to bring the situation back to pre-pandemic levels of performance.

The situation is being kept under review with regular performance monitoring and reports to councillors. It is anticipated that it will take until early 2022 to complete the void backlog.”

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15 Comments for Harlow Council explain large number of empty council houses:

2021-08-31 18:40:41

That;s all fine and dandy but the majority , that's MAJORITY, of the people want houses to go to local people, not outsiders.

Daniel Long
2021-08-31 19:42:12

100% spot on Ray. That is exactly what i.have always said even when i was a councillor in Harlow and even in full council. Again, I'm not passing the buck but this matter got worse under the former Labour administration party of Harlow who were in power of Harlow council between 2012 up to this year. Plus the former Labour administration party of Harlow increased the council tax eight times in in their nine years of being the administration party of Harlow which put a lot of financial pressure on hard working families of Harlow. Harlow homes for Harlow residents. That's my opinion and always has been.

Muhammad Araksha
2021-08-31 20:02:49

Just go and rent private... you can get a better property and not have to worry about chav neighbours.

2021-08-31 20:10:10

Mr Long, the problem was caused when council stock was sold under Thatcher's right to buy scheme and the money gained never being used to reinvest in council housing. This isn't a recent issue but one that has existed for 40 odd years. It is the collective fault of all parties in government and local positions of power and their lack of foresight in not seeing this being a problem at any point in the future. Now we have to rely on private developers to provide housing and their only interest is in the profit they can make from a long time of incompetence and naivety not the need for social housing. I already have a possible solution to the housing problem but each time I have suggested it to councillors and MPs the reply has been much the same: "but where is the profit?" The housing problems that the whole country is facing will only be solved when those that are in power stop using the situation as a political football and also start putting the long term needs of people before the short term financial gain to themselves.

2021-09-01 01:19:37

The 1977 Housing Act amendment 2 years before Lady T had a dramatic effect on council housing. All and sundry became "homeless" and "needy"... You know the ones that complain about a nanny state yet still go cap in hand to her every 5 minutes. Easier to "need" and get supported then to work and strive for a council house, expecting others to pay your rent. Anyway, we are were we are, for what ever reason or your beliefs, Local people want priority over outsiders. Just to say, many labour supporters bought their house under the right to buy scheme and got on the ladder.

2021-09-01 06:20:58

Daniel Long most council tax increases were due to Tory controlled Essex council increases not Harlow controlled local council. You are passing the buck.

2021-09-01 06:33:00

My son who was born, raised, educated and worked in Harlow applied for a flat and was put his name down on the waiting list, after three years he asked where was he on the waiting list and was asked if he worked when he said yes he was told he would have to rent privately and was told he had been taken off the list. Harlow council didn't have the decency to inform him. So it looks like all the properties that will be available will go to people on benefits and refugees. The irony is that the council will not receive any rent from these unlike people who work who would be paying rent. The economics of madness !

2021-09-01 06:57:38

Mr Araksha . Are you saying all council tenents are chavs . This sounds like a form of rasisium. I dont believe any of them are chavs and you also get problem families on private estates as well.

Peter Birchmore
2021-09-01 07:10:20

I hope the homes will be rented out in a better condition that we got ours in 3mths ago, it was horrendous the whole house had black mould. But we fighted the Harlow council about the condition and the house with 2 future works became 14 future works which should of been done before we moved in and 3 of them was classed dangerous.

Pauline S
2021-09-01 10:07:29

An average of 42 days vacant seems too long. The private sector must be less - by why?

2021-09-01 16:37:57

Whilst decent housing is regarded as a speculative and profitable investment and not human right so it will be. We need the kind of spirit that got Harlow built, housing for people not for profit. It's part of the same attitude that sees essential workers underpaid, schools ill equipped, the NHS short of funds and sustains such massive differences in wealth in the uk. There's 23000 homes going to be built around Harlow at the cost of but not the benefit of the town and it's environment, yet as far as can be seen not one Council home.

Muhammad Araksha
2021-09-02 05:46:09

You all here acting like the government owes you something! Go out and get jobs, save up and buy your own property. It isn’t hard... I have three houses in Harlow that I own. I mortgaged one and rented another, when I finished the mortgage for the first I paid off the second by renting out the initial house. When you buy one, any house you buy after pays for itself. You won’t get far waiting for the council to help you... if you want anything in this life you must work for it. And believe me, I’ve worked for my share...

Nicholas Taylor
2021-09-02 08:36:57

Just to put this in perspective, in 2018/19 the turn around time for letting vacant council homes was 16 days. For those on the waiting list it must seem very poor that whilst in the public sector the removal of stamp duty saw a boom in house sales in the private sector, with people moving into homes on the same day that the seller moved out, Harlow Council did not come up with safe procedures to ensure that EMPTY homes were repaired and re-occupied more quickly than on average for 42 days. As for your comment Muhammad, social housing has been built for over 100 years for those in low paid jobs, the problem is, in recent years with a low wage economy the demand has increased at the same time as the supply has decreased.

Muhammad Araksha
2021-09-02 10:31:11

Nicholas. While I am fully aware of the crisis - I cannot understand why people sit about and expect something be given to them! I worked my whole life and I have purchased all the things I need off my own back and at my own expense. Coming to this country, I was homeless in my first years here - I didn’t get support from the state, I didn’t get a home, I didn’t get free money for doing nothing as so many people seem to think - my first job was a warehouse assistant - while homeless, I was lucky enough at the time to find work without a fixed abode. I then found a small bedroom to rent, which I did for 6 years until I saved enough to make a deposit to rent a place privately. When I could pay 1 year rent with only my savings, I did this and then went on to find a better job - when my credit level went up, I mortgaged a property - alone I might add - and then paid it off over 15 years. Now I am in a good position, but I didn’t get this handed to me. I worked and worked hard for this level. So many are out for themselves without lifting a finger from their own hand to get themselves where they need to be. A lot of the people here are too lazy and too happy being a victim to push for something better... it’s both maddening and upsetting.

Danny Long
2021-09-02 13:52:55

Kevin, stop trying to pass the buck. The former Labour administration party of Harlow increased the council tax 8 times in 9 years between 2012 and this year.2013, 2014, 2015, 2017,2018, 2019, 2020 & this year too.and once by the Tory Essex county council councillors in 2016. So get your facts right before you comment.

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