Harlow Council set to invest £26 million towards council house building “boom”
News / Fri 21st Jan 2022 at 06:53am
THIS week, Harlow Council set out its 2022 budget proposals which includes £26 million towards a new council house building programme for Harlow families.
The Council will use this budget envelope towards its ambitious ‘New Build Programme’ which is set to be detailed in March.
In the Council’s recent Corporate Strategy it set out an ambition to build more council homes and the £26 million will go along way towards starting that ambition.
Harlow Council’s Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Councillor Dan Swords, has hailed the proposed £26 million investment as “game changing”. He said: “Our budget proposals will invest residents’ money into their priorities and this includes building much-needed new council homes. Therefore we are going to build, build, build council homes across our town to ensure that many more Harlow families have the home they deserve.
“The £26 million announced as part of our budget proposals is game changing and comes as the biggest council investment into building new homes for decades.
“We are getting on with the job of building more council houses and regenerating our estates. This is not just an aspiration but we are investing money into making it a reality.”
That's all good and well but why not firstly put some money into modernising existing council properties. For example Milwards flats still have single glazed windows, which are constantly full of condensation and mould, cupboards contain asbestos, exterior walls are in desperate need of a paint job. But the budget always seems to run out? Odd.
JANE .Totally agree with you. Milwards is a total eyesore. A lick of paint is not that expensive.
We announced £122 million this week to improve existing council homes and flats. This is the most the council has ever spent and will transform existing council properties.
And how many houses will Harlow get for this investment or will it be another "partner" backhander with a property developers who will have 80% of houses at inflated prices and 20% back to the council. I'd like to see some discussions and plans around supporting the youth and upcoming generations. We could build some football pitches around Harlow for the kids there's so much open unused space, local youth support service centers. The vulnerable kids growing up around here with dumb unsupportive parents will just fall into crime and tax payer supported living conditions. More you educate and support at tender ages and show them there's a better way and they are not alone will be beneficial Harlow's future.
Show the people the proof that theses council houses are being built. Because that's not what we are hearing.
What will the rents be? Will they be affordable in terms of what people can afford, a third of their income, or affordable in terms of what the market will bear, 80% of commercial rent. What percentage of the homes built will be council?
It would have been better to run an actual property maintenance scheme of council housing stock to prevent it from falling into a state of disrepair in the first place. Where does all the funding the council receives go? it can't be on salaries as front line workers have been steadily reduced over the years. The long-term work-shy, druggies, and alcoholics who are subsidised by the taxpayer to occupy council properties should be removed and placed in labour camps, so freeing up council properties for working people who are happy to pay rent on them.
I think before building more they need to drive around town and see how many building are already standing and needing improvement. There's plenty out there empty and wasting away with that kind of budget I'm sure they can utilise and improve these empty places. Instead of pretending they are building council homes for harlow people.
Kim O’Connor, in 10 years, the Harlow Labour administration did not build a single council house. Not one. In fact, they had to return grant money owing to their failure and then in 2020, when about to lose more grant money, they rushed our panic and spent £12.6 million in buying houses in the open market costing more than 3x the cost of actually building homes. Such incompetence borders on criminality. This new council seems to know what is doing both with new building and restoring existing properties.
I am no fan of Labour of Course but Connie is wrong yet again. Harlow Council built a number of new houses in Old Harlow, namely Foster Court and Riley Mews some 6 years ago and of course they started the 16 homes in Bushey Croft. Readers should be aware that the Tories are continuing with their smoke and mirrors election tactics. £26 million sounds a lot of money, it certainly won't see hundreds of council homes built in Harlow. It will be interesting to see just how different these plans are to the ones Labour had in their Local Plan of December 2020. More importantly where will these homes be built, will some be for sale and what rents will be charged.
Nicolas Taylor, if I wrong about Labour’s record on construction, I stand corrected. However, they wasted millions on buying homes on the open market. A question for you or anyone else: when we talk of building houses in a Harlow, where are all these elusive sites? We already have a high density. I do not know where further housing can be built- public or private. There is no space.
Connie- I think you have just negated your own comment "they wasted millions on buying homes on the open market". With sites to build on being "elusive" buying on the open market would have been a sensible option, rather than paying high rents to private landlords purchased properties would remain an asset for the people of Harlow.
Connie, The Local Plan adopted (by the then Labour controlled Council of course) last December clearly lays out where sites for development have been identified, they include the former Lister House site, Pollard Hatch, land behind Hawthorns, Sherards House, Coppice Hatch, adjacent to Nicholls Tower, Fishers Hatch and Elm Hatch to name but a few, space for over 200 homes. Had it not been for the straight jacket placed on Councils by the Tory government, Harlow Council could have built more homes but needed better forward planning to avoid the need to buy homes on the open market.
Paul, I very much doubt your conclusion. What would be the Internal Rate of Return laying out £ 12.6 mn upfront and then renting at council rate rents? Does not stack up, added to which you have maintenance costs, which is why many councils use the private sector for renting accommodation. With a Council covenant, it makes far more economic sense than your proposal. Buying houses on the open market for council renting is financial insanity. Nicholas Taylor, the land behind Hawthorns is a green wedge as far as I know, used by residents of the area. Fisher's Hatch? where is there any space there? I pass it almost daily. Lister House might be a site, but then, what about the Health Centre? Elm Hatch is a pretty small space. How much could be built there? In any event, every time there is a new development planned, residents all object: we want more housing but not next to where I am syndrome. No easy solution. Harlow needs to expand its borders or, more likely become part of a larger new unitary authority, e.g. joining up with Epping Forest or East Herts. I am sure this will eventually come about across the country.
Connie, The sites I mentioned are all in the Council Local Plan. The land behind the Hawthorns is not a green wedge, it is identified for building 35 homes on, as are the FORMER Lister house for between 40 and 50 homes, Fishers Hatch, Elm Hatch, Coppice Hatch, Pypers Hatch and Slacksbury Hatch which are earmarked for demolition as part of the council's regeneration programme, providing some 60 new homes. Residents have already been consulted about two of these sites and were very happy at the prospect of the sites being developed. Because of the direct and only intervention by the Harlow Alliance Party the following green areas were not included in the final version of the Plan; land at Deer Park, Jocelyns, Fennells, Radburn Close, St Andrews Meadow and Barn Mead. As for joining with another authority, that solves nothing and when mooted a few years ago fell at the first hurdle, Do we really want Councillors from as far away as Chigwell, Fyfield and Waltham Abbey deciding the future fate of Harlow, I think not.
Nicholas, are you saying that the plan is to demolish the neighbourhood shopping hatches. Would that not be a big amenity loss to the communities concerned. What level of responses were received through the consultation? Times change. There are major efficiencies and economies of scale to be achieved through larger authorities. Many forward looking councils are actively engaging in closer collaboration and sharing services throughout the country. We live in a global world and when you talk about Chigwell, Waltham Abbey, etc. well the same would apply to them. If you look at East Herts or Epping Forest, there are a number of sizeable towns over a wide area, what makes us so different? Epping, Loughton, Waltham Abbey, Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill are all separate towns under a single authority. They seem to function. Same applies to East Herts with Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth, Ware, Hertford and many villages, again under a single authority. What great difference does it make? All those towns retain their characters. It would give much more scope for building and greater council efficiency, instead of the duplificationcaused by being a small authority. Maybe we should match the town borders to those of the Harlow constituency. That would provide more space at least.
Connie I think you are the only one thinking that.
Yes Connie, that is the Council's plan, to replace 1950's local hatches with modern shops, flats or houses, just as was done a few years ago at Clifton Hatch. The subject of consultation is one to long for these pages but suffice to say residents living nearby were consulted as part of the planning process. Many authorities already share facilities such as legal services and human resource services for example, that is very different from creating new larger authorities. You only have to look at Essex CC to see how Harlow is treated. What services/priorities for Harlow are set at County Hall by Councillors who may never have been to Harlow. The towns you mention have town councils, but they provide very few services. Have you ever spoken for instance to those in charge of Loughton Town Council, in the main their councillors on Epping Forest DC are ignored because they are out numbered by those across the rest of the District, which is what would happen if Harlow DC was to 'merge' with Epping Forest DC. I know only to well how this works because I spent my whole working life working for Harlow Council and Epping Forest DC.
Kim O’Connor, being in a minority of one, but being right is still right. I am an engineer and mathematician and understand logical processes. Small authorities defy economic logic. In the end, they will change.
Connie, public servicers are all about service. Economics whilst important are not the top priority, taking that approach will just lead to a dumming down of services. Local matters should be decided by local people, its called localism within Government. As I said I worked for two local council's, it was like chalk and cheese, the priorities of one were very different to the other and this was reflected in how much and what was spent on issues. Harlow, like other New Towns are unique in many ways, a large number of council homes, higher than average unemployment numbers and social deprivation. If you think that a Councillor living in a 4 million pound house in Chigwell should be making decisions about Harlow you will be in a minority of one and yes you will be wrong! I am afraid that if you have no experience of it, you cannot comprehend it, just like I cannot comprehend what being an engineer involves.
Nicholas, some interesting comments. I get the impression that many people see Harlow as some sort of deprived basket case.However, many new towns built around the same time have evolved, become established and more prosperous, e.g. Bracknell, Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn. Harlow needs to improve its socio economic demographic and is doing so. It needs to continue to attract more high end businesses, requiring qualified well paid workforces, improving local education and retaining more of its qualified and skilled younger people. This way the town will become a more attractive proposition. The town needs ambition and drive. It can be much better. The new Enterprise Zone and Science Park are great for this process. There is no shortage of demand for housing in Church Langley, Gilden Way and Newhall. We need to attract talent and a thriving town centre as a cultural and leisure hub instead of some decrepit blemish akin to an Iron Curtain era place. I am optimistic that this town will improve. It needs an administration of drive , vision and enterprise. Personally, if we move to a unitary authority, I see advantages with East Herts with whom with have much closer ties than most of Essex.
Perhaps the three 20 story rabbit hutch flats, that the Council is looking to allow, our future slums, is the Councils idea of how to house people. Harlow was uniquely advanced in design and it's clear the principles upon which the town was built for a healthy environment need to be rigorously maintained. Expansion and higher density housing and infilling with more polluting roads and congestion are not the answer. Using Stortford as an example of good practice is a mistake, those who work and live there know that many are getting out as quickly as possible as the town becomes more overcrowded with building for people getting out of London. Profit and Return are not good drivers of development they ruin the environment, health of the population and line the pockets of the corrupted. People, wellbeing, quality of life and combating Climate change should be the driving forces.
26 million is a p€$$ in the wind, 74 million is being spent of trashing the Stort Valley and bringing more pollution to Harlow to build 10000 lmillion pound homes in East Herts. 26 million might build 52 new homes whilst there's empty property and many families living in homes that are in poor repair. Seems the announcement by the Council is just propaganda.
Nostradamus, you socialists really don’t do numbers, do you? Probably explains why council taxes always went up under Labour. £ 26 m for 52 homes = a cost of £500,000 to build each home! Assuming these houses are built on council owned land at a build cost of as high as £ 150,000 per 2 bedroom home, that would be around 173 new homes. Far more than Labour has built in decades. Furthermore, to Council has also announced well over £ 100 mn for estates refurbishment and repairs.
James, stop trying to defend the indefensible with distorted figures! 173 new homes is totally inadequate whilst Harlow is proposing 132000 private homes to create a mini city, something not needed or wanted. Better demolish the millions of shoddy houses many dating from Victorian times and build quality ultra green. Meanwhile Essex Conservative private sector the market forces loving philosophy will result in Essex being 100 million short. See BBC report https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-60068957.amp. A prime example of a failure and decades of mismanagement. Sorry to disappoint but I cleave to no party socialist, left right middle: all suffer from pack mentality and are hamstrung by a collective myopia and manifesto. My view is based on outcomes healthy environment, ecology industry, sound business, good education and housing, zero pollution and high quality housing, it's a balance. The kind of philosophy that built the new garden towns after the war. The truth is that Parties swing the pendulum too far. Any party that doesn't come up to scratch isn't worthy of office. Land ownership is a historical accident and the philosophy of all parties has been to hike up the prices of land and property. Mainly for private profit, money laundering and because homes are the pension pot for most people. Compare property prices in the uk with France and you can see how the uk market is skewed. A highly efficient flatpack house can be built for between £30k to £80k on a site with services. The answer is for Councils and government to input services for a ground rent and use flatpack to either build Council homes or allow private individuals to purchase and erect their own.
Connie, no one cares what you do for a living, plenty people here have very good jobs, but your only one believes what your saying. We are in desperate need of council housing, I want to see proff of councils saying there building them. It's easy to do, they just need to put post on.
Kim O’Connor. They have. Just the post we are all commenting on! Could not be clearer.
Well I am going to call it a day with this post after this. Just to lay out some more facts.; Firstly, the number of new homes required by the Government during the next 12 years or so, Harlow 9,200, Epping Forest 11,400, East Herts 18,000, Uttlesford 12,500, total 51,100 (to put this in perspective Harlow has about 39,000 now) increasing the population served by PAH from 350,000 people to 500,00. Of the 9200 in Harlow less than 300 will be council owned and when built, the council will still have less homes than they had in 2012.
Locals need not apply.....
It was the Tories under Thatcher that sold half the council's housing stock which has caused the housing crisis we have now not just in Harlow but across the country.
The record of Labour in providing social and affordable housing is contained in an external consultant's report commissioned by Harlow Council's Scrutiny Committee approved by them on 16 March 2021. The council's Cabinet accepted the report on 25 March 2021. The report in Cabinet papers is on pages 126 to 176. With regards to buying homes on the open market the report states at page 143: "The Council is currently embarking on a buy back programme to purchase 45 units of accommodation on the open market, which will be let as Council housing. To date 34 properties have already been earmarked. To make the scheme viable 70% will be affordable rent and 30% social rent. If the scheme works well the Council will reduce the number of affordable and increase the proportion of social rent. In Harlow affordable rent is 75% of the market rent and will be met by LHA. Affordable rents also include the service charge. This is complemented by HTS’s own programme where they have bought 5 units of accommodation to be let as a mix of social, affordable and market rent." With regards to new build the report says on page 143: "The Housing Capital Programme 2020/22 details the capital budget for new build projects." In a table that follows 90 homes are identified at 6 sites with a total cost of £24.79 million. You can see the report at: https://moderngov.harlow.gov.uk/documents/g1280/Public%20reports%20pack%2025th-Mar-2021%2019.30%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10
Harlow Council under Labour built council homes. As mentioned in my earlier comment, external consultant's produced a 50 report with 20 recommendations. On page 144 it lists Labour's housing achievement s: "It is important to recognise that the Regeneration Team, responsible for housing delivery, is a very small team, but despite this they have achieved a number of successes including: The pathfinder resulted in the development of 18 Council properties, the first build for 30 years. The BCA regeneration project was a huge achievement delivered ahead of schedule, resulting in 93 social homes, 73 affordable homes and 35 shared ownership homes. The pipeline programme identifies 875 potential units of accommodation over 14 years Start on site at Bushey Croft is anticipated for the first quarter of 2021 Planning permission achieved for the former Lister House site. In addition, the Housing services team have had success in: Street to Homes Homeless supported accommodation (9 bedsits) Buy back scheme has already earmarked 34 properties for purchase and conversion to social housing.
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