The social rent shortage that is driving London councils to move people to Harlow

News / Wed 30th Aug 2023 at 09:02am

CLOSE to a hundred families have been sent to Harlow as a consequence of a social rent shortage.

Inside Housing launched a special investigation in order to find out more.

They sent Freedom of Information requests to London councils, to try to find out the scale of the issue.

A total of 29 London councils told them they sent 1,693 homeless households to accommodation outside the capital between March 2022 and February 2023.

Inside Housing’s FOI request also asked where London households were being sent. The areas receiving the most households were Medway (185), High Wycombe (155), Thurrock (152), Dartford (130) and Harlow (97).

London boroughs sending the most households outside their local area were Redbridge* (291), Brent (180), Greenwich (170), Bromley (149) and Hillingdon (111).

Residents are most likely to be placed in private accommodation and not into council homes where there are strict residency rules.

Click below for the full report.


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33 Comments for The social rent shortage that is driving London councils to move people to Harlow:

2023-08-30 11:13:44

Thats is one of the reasons why Harlow is deteriorating so much in a last few years!!!!

2023-08-30 11:23:34

This has to stop. It is making our Town Centre looking like the third world and leading to increased crime and anti-social behaviour. They should be sent back to the responsible authorities.

Luke Burton
2023-08-30 12:18:24

The sad thing is, Harlow isn't exactly cheap when it comes to the private rental sector because house prices are so high. I can't believe it's £300k+ for a decent 2-3 bed house in the town now.

2023-08-30 13:34:42

Luke Burton, I understand, but given Harlow's location and connectivity, it is still comparatively cheap compared to neighbouring towns and similar New Towns . Rightmove says average prices are as follows: Epping. £ 667,000 Hertford. £ 508,500 B.Stortford £ 508,200 New towns Welwyn Gdn City. £ 474, 200 Stevenage £ 361, 400 Basildon. £ 353,200 Harlow £ 349, 600 It is clear that Harlow prices are comparatively favourable and have more upside, especially with regeneration and new businesses coming here. All the above are cheap compared to most of London, which is why these councils are buying up properties in these areas for housing. It is not to our advantage. They will always go for the cheapest.

Luke Burton
2023-08-30 14:11:59

You're right, Margaret.

2023-08-30 14:14:45

Given Harlow has it's own difficulties in housing it's own residents, you have to ask why is Harlow accepting Londons overspill?

2023-08-30 15:50:54

97 households in a year when Harlow has a population of around 90000 people seems very insignificant

Nicholas Taylor
2023-08-30 15:55:50

This sad situation is the legacy of failed Tory policies since 1980. Whilst the Right to Buy for council tenants helped millions of people buy a home for the first time and in the long run help families prosper, it did little or nothing for those without a home or those who what for ever reason who could not afford to buy. New council homes were never replaced using the capital receipts from these sales. Owning a home became an investment not just a home and those able to buy land on which to build homes sit on their investment watching it escalate in value whilst it sits undeveloped. Then came the Tory idea to falsely boost house numbers by allowing offices to be converted to flats, well we all know how that worked out. Tonight, across the UK, hundreds of thousands of children will be sleeping in temporary accommodation, often many miles from where they lived previously. Truly a shocking legacy of the Tory Government of 2010-2024. A final point in response to Seamus, London's overspill is being provided temporary accommodation in privately owned flats and houses across the town, not Harlow Council.

2023-08-30 17:54:51

Pete tell that to 97 Harlow residents who have been wauting to be housed for 10s of years. Don't forget to add into that count the 100s already moved here from out of area.

2023-08-30 18:56:36

Nicholas two points if I may. You seemed to have hiccuped from your memory, those years 1997 - 2010 when Labour were in charge and could have easily changed most of thatchers policies but chose not to do so. Secondly, whilst you claim Londons overspill is being placed in privately owned flats and houses (which have a higher rent), that rent is being paid by Harlow council through benefits out of Harlow councils own housing budget is it not? If it is then why are Harlow council open to ANY overspill tennants, when we have so many born and bred in Harlow who will never be extended such an advantage?

Mark Gough
2023-08-30 21:16:48

Neither the Tory MP, Labour opponents, nor Harlow Council under either Tory or Labour have attempted to do anything about this. Margaret is also correct - the last set of Crime figures I saw for the Town Centre showed a 500% increase. That's without mentioning the four recent murders in the Town. When I was UKIP Parliamentary Candidate in 2017 I wrote to the then Housing Minister asking for a visit to explain this and their actions. I ended up having a ten email back and forth debate with one of his minions who constantly fobbed me off. The Government rode roughshod over the District Council as the planning authority, and the Council had no say at all. This is plain wrong and frankly when Ministers make decisions they should come and justify them to the Electorate who put them in their jobs! Rest assured we in Reform UK will continue to call for this, and an end putting to it!

2023-08-30 22:28:43

This must be stop Harlow is not safe anymore the funniest thing is that peoples who lives in private house in Harlow cannot get council house..

2023-08-31 05:41:48

Clearly being paid to take in hundreds of people from other towns. Thanks for that. Nevermind we have people in our town, lived here all their lives that have nowhere to live or waiting for somewhere or waiting for the correct sized house. Thanks harlow council

2023-08-31 07:56:33

Make accommodation more affordable everywhere and stop passing the problems onto other boroughs

Carl a rogers
2023-08-31 08:25:17

Does it really matter who is to blame they are all to blame all they care about is money money money typical government and councils crime has gone up so much now it's embarrassing there's so many shops closed and why because of greed why charge so much typical Harlow council thinking they would rather have empty shops which look a eyesaw and all the people up town smoking weed freely in the town and drinking with police not really doing much apart from saying please move on Harlow has most definitely changed for the worse and nothing will change unless someone decent comes in and stops Harlow council wasting money instead of improving the town they just want to waste money and ruin Harlow bet when they retire they will all move away

David Forman
2023-08-31 08:33:17

Housing Benefit does not cover all the rent. In 2012 the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) was set at the cheapest level - the bottom three tenths or 30th percentile. Since then there has been LHA freezes which means housing benefit claimants can only afford the very worst private rented accommodation or move to cheaper areas. In Parliament in March this year Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams stated: "Freezing the LHA has two broad consequences. First, the rise in rents is decreasing the amount of housing in the private rented sector available to those claiming housing benefits. Secondly, the support that low-income renters get with housing costs will be related not to the current level of rents in their area but rather to the rents of 2019." He further stated that restoring LHA to 30th percentile would "lift 32,000 people out of poverty and save a further 6,000 people from homelessness". Labour MP Karen Buck made the point about London rents: "in London just 4.2% of available private rented properties are below the local housing rate (LHA)." So Conservative Party policies are forcing London councils to shift people out. See debate at https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2023-03-15/debates/A0E6D8A4-816A-4130-A8BA-FF332B53C354/LocalHousingAllowance

Neil Francis Rickards
2023-08-31 08:42:29

Harlow Town centre was a nice place when I was young but now its gone down hill fast, went to Tescos Chuch langley yesterday sat in the car waiting for wife to do the shopping (Me disabled Blue badge) MY God I thought I could have been back in Kenya (Nat: Srvice 2 years) the amount of Black Indian and east european people there, when I was young it was only London people that moved in to Harlow, also Black and east europian park in the parking for people with children and Blue badge areas with no kids and no blue badge ALL the time just dont give a damb, Happy Days.

Alfred Keast
2023-08-31 08:47:22

The reason Harlow is so cheap is because we are being given all the dregs of other councils, women are becoming afraid to walk around the town centre, their space gets invaded

Kim Oconnor
2023-08-31 09:37:56

It is indeed true that a lot of people are in private accommodation, and council benifts pay for this... If we did not live in such a greedy world , we would use our lands to help more people, with affordable housing, build more council houses.... But sadly this government, theses councils are all about lining there own pockets, has been proved all over this country. Its about time they listened to what's happening out there.. We in Harlow alone have over 5,000 waiting for homes, a lot waiting years.... This council needs to ask themselves is this a fair system, to put others before our own... All this government talk about is Leveling up, build ,build, build,, for who, for those that can afford it that's who.... instead of concentrating on the needs and wants of people in need of homes..... Greed of this government and councils. After all its we the public that keep them on there seats .. And not listening to public options will be there down fall.

Simon Carter
2023-08-31 09:42:20

No government has ensured enough houses were built sine the late 1960s. 1969/70 was the last time 300K homes were built, and nearly half of those were Council houses. The fewest council houses built, 60 (sixty) was in in 1999/00 under Blair/Brown. (Source: ONS Dataset Housing). Temporary accommodation is sourced from the private sector, over which the council has no control, apart from licencing HMOs. The present Conservative council is building more council houses than in the last three decades under Labour. Seamus, Housing Benefit (and Local Housing Allowance for private rents) is mostly sourced through Universal Credit, funded by the tax payer through the Dept for Work and Pensions. Harlow Council has no responsibility or liability for it. Hope these little facts are helpful.

Kim Oconnor
2023-08-31 10:23:13

Simon Carter,, I suggest you read the Gilston project s, what we were promised is not what we are getting.. we were told the amount at consultation, and that amount has dropped significantly... You are not building enough council houses.. if you don't listen to public options, this council this government will not get back in. Incomparison with thousands and thousands of unaffordable homes, affordable is no where near it.. you can not justify it.

2023-08-31 10:47:27

I am in my 60s and lived in harlow all my life 13 yrs ago when I divorced I was told by harliw Council to privately rent as my circumstances mean I would be in my 70s before they could house me and then only in a bed sit I used to love harlow now it's a dump everywhere you look its a mess

Kim Oconnor
2023-08-31 12:15:46

Tim , I've been in my house since I was 25, now I'm 65, I've been with my partner for 30 years, he pays the rent... they won't let him go on the rent book. I was told to down size to a flat,then his name can go on book....we have spent thousands doing this place up over the years, thousands.... They can stick that where the sun dont shine.... so what it actually means is, if any thing happens to me,, he will be checked out of this place....

Nicholas Taylor
2023-08-31 12:47:25

Bit of a joke Cllr Carter, 27 months in power and not a single new council house has been built yet. The housing crisis lies where people cannot afford to buy any home and we all know that "affordable homes" are not really affordable. The creation of HGGT and working with neighbouring councils means that in a decades time Harlow will be surrounded by thousands of private, expensive homes meaning that any large scale council house building programme will have to include some of the towns green space, much of which has already succumbed to housing building in the last four decades or so. The Council may have been better to have invested in buying land around Harlow, on which council houses could have been built rather than buying the Harvey Centre.

James Leppard
2023-08-31 13:03:56

Nicholas Taylor: 1. Buying the Harvey Centre was a an integral part of the Council's Town Centre regeneration programme which residents supported in 2021. It is moving ahead and full details and plans are available in a space in the Harvey Centre. This regeneration is essential for Harlow's future economy after Labour allowed the place to run down. 2. Buying land outside Harlow (Epping Forest or East Herts) where land prices are considerably higher than Harlow is not necessarily viable. Furthermore, any building there would be subject to Epping or East Herts approval as the relevant Planning authority. Who knows what objections by residents there might arise. It is not as easy as you imagine. If you see the planning approvals obtained in Harlow, an extensive council housebuilding programme is beginning at a number of Harlow sites in Q4 this year, which will represent more than the previous Labour council built during a decade.

James Leppard
2023-08-31 14:17:19

Also Nicholas Taylor, if Harlow built houses on land of Epping or East Herts, who would get the Council Tax? Would it not be exactly the same situation you oppose with respect to HGGT? Not a very cogent or consistent argument.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-08-31 15:42:47

James 1) How many people responded to the consultation, who even knew about it? Did the Council meet with residents associations for example. I think not because just a very few residents responded. In view of the cost to resurface Market Square, it will cost millions of pounds just to re-configure/resurface the Playhouse Quarter, hardly "levelling up" if you excuse the pun.2) Development companies obviously thought it was a good investment to buy land around Harlow, much of it has for at least 5 years been the subject of a sale agreement. 3) I am sure EFDC would have been delighted to see council homes built there if only to be able to meet their "affordable homes" target and five year housing supply target. 4) We all look forward to hearing of progress in bringing forward sites, it has been said this will be published in September, but I repeat 27 months in and no sign of a brick yet! 5) Purchasing land would have given weight to the case that all of the HGGT area should come within a new HDC boundary as would of course the Council Tax and Business Rates paid 6) Rent income from these new houses would at least help prop up the Housing Revenue Account and thus help maintain the towns ageing stock.

James Leppard
2023-08-31 16:50:41

Nicholas Taylor, the principal consultation was at the 2021 local elections, where one of the main manifesto pledges was to regenerate our abysmally neglected Town Centre after a decade of Labour incompetence, which included foregoing the opportunity to acquire Terminus House for next to nothing and allowing it be acquired so that it now provides sun-standard accommodation for London boroughs' residents with all the unfortunate consequences amply visible. You know full well that HDC has secured significant grant funding specifically for regeneration. It involves no burden on Harlow residents. 2. With Labour's totally passive approach, developers started to land bank. That is now longer possible with this Council's Town Centre Masterplan planning ringfence. Again, something Labour never considered. All the plans and ideas are publicly available in the Harvey Centre. I suggest you a make a visit. 3. Is your opinion not supported with empirical evidence. It is also nonsense. Why would EFDC be able to house people on its waiting list if the properties were owned by Harlow Council. Plus what about the Sect. 106 funds and RTB receipts? Are you advocating that Harlow Council takes on de t to be used to build roads an infrastructure in Epping? That will really please Harlow taxpayers! 4. The plans for the rollout of new council housing is ready and works scheduled to commence at several sites throughout Q4 2023. Contrast that with Labour's abject council house building over a decade. 5. As for purchasing land, this represents a complete volte face on your part. I have consistently advocated a change to Harlow's boundaries, which you have said was impossible. Now you are saying, without any evidence, that we should borrow and invest millions in buying land in EFDC on the off chance they might change their mind! That would border on reckless in the extreme and would never be sanctioned by any Section 151 officer, as you should know. 6. Unlikely given all the costs, risks and uncertainties. You have done no research as to the finances, just shooting from the hip and missing the target. Had Labour seized the chance acquire Terminus House, that could have been properly converted into decent accommodation rather the the rabbit style hutches for London's overspill.

2023-08-31 21:21:44

Seamus - when other Councils place people in another area to meet their statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation, the households claim housing benefit (not UC) from the placing Council. So they are not being subsidised by Harlow residents. They are required to pay their own Council Tax in the area they are placed in. I am sure if you understood the pressures on London Councils at the moment, you’d understand why those Councils have no option other than to seek housing outside their area. London Councils are experiencing an unprecedented increase in demand as a result of factors such as the cost of living crisis, increased demand from Ukraine and Afghan families (who tend to gravitate back to London even when dispersed) and a loss of over 40% of the private sector stock it could access a year ago due to an exodus of landlords leaving the market.

Homeless from Harlow
2023-08-31 22:31:37

I'm currently homeless and have been since March, Harlow council are not interested in finding me anywhere to live, I'm single and unemployed I have lived in Harlow all of my life but that doesn't count for anything these days, so where did they suddenly find homes for these 97 families who possibly didn't even know whereabouts Harlow is, I can't afford to private rent

2023-09-01 09:42:21

Reading all the comments posted... to summarize if I may - it's the Government's fault, both sides of the political divide are to blame, nothing will change, and everyone's on the make, (Blaire the definition of champagne socialist at work, All Tories with noses in the trough too) Harlow councillors are school children at play, each with his/her own agenda. No wonder the Town has the reputation it has.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-09-01 10:17:46

James, To many points to make in response to all your comments but just briefly to say, if Harlow Council had put what is effectively a deposit on land destined to be built on (just as developers did some 5 years ago), those homes would be for Harlow Council tenants and meet Epping Forest DC's target of ensuring the affordability targets within their local Plan. As an example of this type of arrangement, the London Borough of Waltham Forest (LBWF) own a whole estate within a couple of hundred yards of the Civic Offices In Epping, they are maintained by LBWF and allocated to applicants on their waiting list. I believe at one time they owned an estate as far away as Eastbourne. HAP have as you know said from the outset that the whole of the HGGT area should fall within the HDC area, where we disagree is with your suggestion that it should be extended even further.

Nogin the nog
2023-09-01 19:46:43

I blame Thatcher she sold the council houses to stop the unions from striking and didn't use the money to build new ones like promised

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