Harlow Council proposes major overhaul of how it allocates housing to ensure ‘Harlow homes go to Harlow families’

News / Mon 13th Nov 2023 at 10:07am

HARLOW Council is proposing a radical overhaul of how it allocates housing as part of its priority to fix council housing and has launched a six-week public consultation to listen to residents’ views.

The consultation will run from Monday 13 November until Friday 22 December.

The council says it is proposing changes to its policy that will strengthen its commitment to make sure Harlow homes go to Harlow families.

The council’s Housing Allocations Policy determines how it lets social housing in the area, both its own council homes and housing association properties. It sets out who is eligible to apply for social housing and who gets priority.

There are currently 5,558 applicants on the housing needs register with around 3,000 applicants actively bidding for homes. 

Proposals for change include:

  • Increasing the length of time that the applicant must have a local connection – currently this is 5 years, but this could potentially be doubled.
  • Removing local connection through family or working in the town except in very exceptional circumstances.
  • Considering extra priority for those who were born in Harlow and still live here – backdating applications by 12 months.
  • The removal of priority Band 4 of the register to ensure the council does not give ‘false hope’; most applicants in this band are extremely unlikely to ever be offered council housing and therefore, honest conversations would take place up front rather than giving ‘false hope’. There are over 2,600 applicants currently in band 4.
  • Increasing the earnings threshold for eligibility to join the register – this is currently £50,000 per year but needs to increase to reflect the cost of living challenges.
  • Tougher penalties for those who refuse reasonable offers of a council home.
  • More effective methods of matching adapted homes to those who need them.
  • A review into nomination rights to partner organisations to ensure council homes truly go to those in need.
  • Ensuring that those placed in temporary accommodation by other Councils do not have access to local housing over and above Harlow residents.

The council is also proposing changes that will make the policy easier to administer and therefore simpler for applicants to understand and apply. This will help to significantly speed the application process up.

This in the most radical proposed overhaul of how the council allocates council homes in decades. Commenting on the proposals, Councillor David Carter, deputy leader and cabinet portfolio holder for housing, said:

“As we work hard on our priority to fix council housing we want to make sure local housing goes to local people, and that our homes are let to those most in need. There is a strong feeling in the town that more priority should be given to people who were born in Harlow and still live here and that’s one of the reasons why we are proposing a radical overhauling of our policy and system.

“With housing demand outstripping housing supply, we are facing the issues head on to focus on those who need a home rather than those who want a home. We believe that there is no value in registering applicants when there are no prospects of rehousing. We would rather have an honest conversation with people at the point they apply and signpost them to better, more realistic housing options.

“However, these are proposals and we want to hear what residents think before we make changes, including getting ideas and views on what they think we need to also address or include.”

Residents can take part in the consultation at https://selfserve.harlow.gov.uk/service/Housing_allocation_scheme_consultation

The results of the consultation will be considered in February 2024, with a view to implementing a new allocations policy from 1 April 2024.

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52 Comments for Harlow Council proposes major overhaul of how it allocates housing to ensure ‘Harlow homes go to Harlow families’:

Richard Porter
2023-11-13 11:48:16

Must be getting old i remember a time in Harlow not so long ago where waiting times were advertised on a board inside the town hall , at one time a single person in housing need , was advertised as an 18 month wait .! Now you’d be lucky to make the list at all .

christine camichel
2023-11-13 11:58:22

absolutely right that this should happen,there are second generation families waiting years for suitable housing and being jumped in the queue by people that have just arrived on the town for whatever reason and this is absolutely unacceptable.The people of this Town who were born here and particularly who's parents were born here should have priority,this standard was set a long time ago,but due to migration seems to have been pushed under the table. So yes please bring back the rights of the people of Harlow who have worked here all their lives supporting businesses and the Town,make this a fair place to live again.

James Gamble
2023-11-13 14:09:50

When I was young First generation children were guaranteed a council house. There was a waiting list for others, first come first served. The new system favours needs such as how many children they have and if they are homeless, they have based the provision of properties on a points and a bidding system based on needs. We'll the needs of the residents could be put first. There are so many other housing providers in and around Harlow with hundreds of new properties being built none of which will be Council owned no doubt.

Terry Ray
2023-11-13 14:12:25

This is absolutely how it should be, in Harlow and in every other town - prioritising locals first, instead of hand outs to people who've just come into the country/out of town, whom, for the most part, haven't contributed at all to the town or to the tax system. I'm certain the response this article will receive will be nothing less than overwhelmingly positive. Harlow homes, for Harlow residents firsts - fantastic!

Right decision
2023-11-13 14:29:33

Exactly how it should be. People who have been on the list for tens of years are constantly bumped down the list by people coming into the area. It's not right, they don't stand a chance

2023-11-13 14:33:03

And does the £50,000 threshold include single people ? If so then that's massively unfair to those on low wages, which a good percentage of Harlow I suspect.

2023-11-13 14:36:10

Tougher measures on those who refuse council homes ... have you seen the state of some of these places and the areas they're in ? That's a bad step. Plus removal of band 4 is a red flag. On one hand they want to make it fairer but in reality they're just wiping a huge percentage of people off the list. Very underhand

gary roberts
2023-11-13 14:44:53

No mention of stopping the right to buy. If it doesn't stop it, council housing will be gone in a decade and 5,000 will become 20,000 in years' waiting for a home. The implied discrimination of single people could be the subject of a class action judicial review. And on-line consultation does not work. Put it in Harlow Home with a full clean page for comments and then add a council addressed envelope for replies.

2023-11-13 14:52:28

As a Harlow council tenant myself it was shocking how many people bidded on just one property, over three hundred people. We have downsized recently and have given a house back for another family.

Unfair proposals involved
2023-11-13 14:59:25

I think its massively unfair to penalise people who turn down a property after viewing. This is someone's home. If that's going to happen then the homes snd neighbourhoods need to be kept to a decent standard so that people can live safely and comfortably . Just because you are desperate for housing doesn't mean you should be forced to live in misery and have zero chance of relocating. Council sort out the housing stock and social problems before you make that change. Plus as someone else has said. . Band 4 is for people who have no housing needs ???? Who determines that ? So a singld adult living with their parents in their 20s upwards who hasn't got the financial means to buy or privately rent has no housing need? That's terrible

David morton
2023-11-13 15:49:56

Fantastic idea but why has it taken so long, I expect a large portion of houses has already been given to people from outside the town hence why the list is so long?????

2023-11-13 15:59:11

£50,000? Who earns £50k in Harlow Town? I was born in London and had to buy an ex council property and move here as house prices in London are not meant for average Londoners salary like myself who still travels back for work everyday! This article ain't as good as it sounds, wiping out band 4 and said £50k threshold, even for a couple that's very high for Harlow residents! Disgraceful.

Tony WIseman
2023-11-13 16:55:18

I think that we need a clearer explanation of the £50,000 threshold. Does it mean that you have to earn that much before you can apply to join the housing waiting list or if you do earn that much you cannot join it? Perhaps Councillor David Carter, deputy leader and cabinet portfolio holder for housing, could explain it for us all.

2023-11-13 17:21:49

I read it as a household needs to earn under that threshold. A lot of peopledl families in harlow would struggle to get near that being on minimum wage, low wage jobs or zero hour contracts. It seems raising that would increase the waiting list size and make it even more difficult for those on lower salaries. The average annual wage in the UK is currently £38000 but i suspect that doesn't in any way represent the majority of those in need of social housing . I suspect many individuals are under £20000 , probably significantly.

James Leppard
2023-11-13 17:33:00

Tony Wiseman and Jay to clarify, the current rules (as published on the Council website) state: You cannot join the Housing Needs Register if you have more than £50,000 from savings, equity or income. You do not have to earn £ 50,000: you have to earn less. What is being proposed is that this cut-off threshold be increased to adjust for inflation. Hope this is now clear.

2023-11-13 18:17:02

What jokers you are, you have sat back & let thousands of people flood the Town who weren't even born in the UK never mind London. To scared to say anything incase you were called racist. Now the town is hardly recognisable. Well done 👍 hope you feel proud. Local born and bred families have been waiting on the list for actual years having to live in cramped conditions etc, all the while you been giving flats/ to people with no connection and literally just turned up! Disgusting shame on you.

2023-11-13 19:53:38

[Whistle] Good Boy! Nice Doggy.[Whistle] It took no longer than I expected for the dog whistle 'Harlow homes go to Harlow families' to take the obvious effect. Harlow homes already go to Harlow families. What these proposals are doing is making it harder for Harlow homes to go to Harlow families. These proposals are putting up even more barriers for Harlow families to get council housing. But by using the phrase 'Harlow homes go to Harlow families' it plays to the "them" and "us" narrative. It is typical divisive rhetoric that has obviously fooled some already. This article appears on the same day when 10,000 homes in East Herts were rubber stamped and then the proposed affordable housing numbers were slashed. So where are the people who would fall off the housing register due to these proposed changes are supposed to live? Not in the even fewer "affordable" housing available. If they present themselves as homeless, will the council then have to provide even more expensive temporary accommodation?

Charlotte Thompson
2023-11-13 20:17:44

These proposals could stop family members who have left Harlow due to the companies they work for leaving the area from returning when they are needed to support family members in Harlow. Also if businesses move into Harlow but there is no work force here how will they operate if they can't get housing for workers, you could find Harlow will be one big housing estate with no prospects. Council needs to stop selling council properties and build the type of accommodation that is needed

Tony Wiseman
2023-11-13 20:53:20

Thank you for the clarification James Leppard

Keith Conlan
2023-11-13 21:36:24

Waiting list i joined it in 1992 still not been contacted to be able to bid.

Sally kemp
2023-11-14 02:05:21

I was once called a racist in the letters page in Harlow star , for saying Harlow homes should go to Harlow people, I’m surprised the lefties haven’t jumped on here and called this article racist- I suppose they have all been housed now , because they complained that if they weren’t from Harlow the council were racist.

2023-11-14 02:11:29

The housing list is abysmal . I am bidding every week to get a bungalow or ground floor place due to my health conditions and there are over two hundred other folk bidding on the same property each week . You need to build more bungalows please Harlow council for us Harlow born people who are getting old. Thank you.

2023-11-14 07:25:09

So I've lived and worked her for 4 yrs , shopped lical and contributed to the local area but if anything happens to my partner I can't apply for council house ? Because I certainly couldn't afford to rent here , so harlow council would in effect make me homeless? And lose my job too

2023-11-14 07:28:07

Load of bills hit. Harlow Council have and will only cate about helping sponges who claim benefits. If you work your screwed. Why not get people who would pay into the system by paying rent, then help a few who don't, rather than keep paying out a net loss on rent rebates and other benefits. 15 years I have been screwed by harlow council, and on 900pcm for private rent, it's hard to save a deposit to buy somewhere.

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-14 09:43:35

The last paragraph is interesting, the last few years Harlow council have let other London Borough s,have the upper hand, by allowing thousands of people into Harlow, knowing we have this housing crisis, and knowing our services are crumbling.. Again no foresight into the future.. Thousands upon thousands of new builds around our boarders, and yet the application for social housing has been allowing to be dropped. Again no foresight.. if you sign and seal something with out all the facts, of what theses developers are capable of .. I don't see a way out of this housing problem, unless you build thousands of more council homes, WHITH NO RIGHT TO BUY. Not thousands and thousands of unaffordable housing estates around our boarders, bringing more and more people to this town, with no facilities being built FIRST. You reap what you sow.. a few changes is good, Housing our own first,should of been done years back.

david Carter
2023-11-14 10:08:57

I will try to Clarify some of the points raised. Firstly we work on a national system of Needs based Lettings. Which means people with the greatest needs come first. As we have very few Council social homes that become available mainly through People moving out of our town or through deaths of existing residents. It is impossible to find homes for over 5000 on the list when we get about 25 a month becoming available. People who still need homes but are way down the priority list are unlikely to be successful so keeping them in band 4 with very little hope is unfair. As for the £50k limit this at present does not allow anyone earning more than this to register. people who earn under this are fine. but this £50k was set years ago and many people who earn about this still cannot afford to rent on the open market or buy a home. We are also trying to make sure Harlow people are the highest on the list. Yes we need more homes. but we have very little land to build on. we know we need homes for single people as the numbers who live alone is rising. We often get 300 plus bids for each property that becomes available so we can only satisfy one. We know we need more social housing with low rents This is a Major issue in our country and we are pushing to address this

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-14 10:25:51

David Carter, if people the top of your list is people in greater need, may I ask why the elderly are stuck in high rise flats still, with many having health complaints.. you need to build a lot more bungalows for our elderly, who served for this country, and have been left behind, in this town ,along with people with complex disabilities people...... Every time I ask this question about building more council houses ,your answer is no land.... Ask your self why this decay has been allowed to happen.. years of greed and selling of our lands... And not putting the people first. Just to add, when we greens were canvassing, I was shocked at the number that have been left behind.

Nogin the nog
2023-11-14 11:37:57

The right to buy needs to be stopped there will be no council houses left in the end

Give it a rest.
2023-11-14 12:04:02

Are the Harlow Green Party happy about the almost daily nonsensical, opinionated, pessimistic, semi-illiterate ramblings being posted on this comments section in their name.

david Carter
2023-11-14 12:57:00

Sadly Kim is right we do need more bungalows and places for the elderly to move too and we have no land. If we had land where does the money to build come from?

2023-11-14 13:17:20

Developers of large estates in and around Harlow should be compelled to make 50% available for low rent. However what must be realised is that the uk ruling class has deliberately created a shortage of housing forcing prices on an ever upwards spiral enriching themselves and their institutions. Embodied in the whole debate about housing is the entirely wrong philosophy and it is morally questionable to regard housing is a commodity, an investment or a means for the rich to live off the backs of the working population rather than a humane right and a duty of a government to provide, charging rents that are a sixth of the family income or of the regional average wage to pay for maintenance and new building. Retaining a right to buy only works for society if the price is the market value and every penny is put into building new homes. It was possible to build thousands of Council homes for rent post war, so it should be now by building more new ultra green garden towns. This new policy is a distraction and the policians don't seem to have a clue what the figures mean: hundreds of applications for particular properties from people shows that the Council does understand the issue. If there were plenty of homes then three wouldn't be this distraction issue about how long someone has lived here.

2023-11-14 13:21:43

# hundreds of applications for particular properties from people shows that the Council does NOT understand the issue. Or perhaps it does and so is using the slogan, which seems right but isn't, as a shield to hide a failed local and government housing policy.

James Leppard
2023-11-14 14:39:34

David Carter makes good points. No government since the 1960s has succeeded in building a net 300,000 new homes a year. However, even that would be inadequate. The problem of supply is superseded by demand. In the 25 years between 1971 and 1996, the UK population increased by 4.3% from 55.8 m to 58.2 m. In the next 25 years to 2021, it increased by 15.6% to 67.3 m and is still rising at a net rate of over 600,000 annually. This is totally unsustainable. Harlow's own population increased by 11,400 between 2011 and 2021. This without any increase to the area of our district, leading to just greater density and increased demand on our services and infrastructure. Unless we are willing to destroy our much valued green areas, we are fast approaching saturation for any new builds - social or private. This problem afflicts much of the country. At present rates, our population will hit around 87 m by 2050, that's the equivalent of about another six Greater Manchesters! It really cannot continue.

Sally kemp
2023-11-14 15:34:39

Interesting comment by Mr Leppard. This increase in population is extremely concerning. We are definitely over populated in Harlow because you can’t get a drs appointment or a place to live. Examine why the population increased around these times? Tony Blair opened the immigration doors and allowed in thousands and thousands of Eastern Europeans here. It’s not only eu residents, it’s many other nationalities here now. I would say Harlow is half and half now. Far too many people without the facilities for them. What kind of government allows that? A huge influx of people, without the homes and facilities for them. I do wonder if these governments have any common sense. Just because you’ve been university, doesn’t mean you are intelligent . We should be like Australia and have a points system. Not everyone should be slowed here Willy nilly. We just haven’t got enough for everyone.

James Leppard
2023-11-14 16:46:16

Sally Kemp highlights the origin of the problem. Yes, we do need a certain level of migration to fill the skills gap: scientists, engineers, health workers, etc. However, we have not applied stringent criteria. An Australian points based system, rigorously applied based on the country's needs and with applications made abroad is the sensible way to proceed. The current situation is untenable and a disincentive to genuine migrants seeking to proceed within the rules.

2023-11-14 17:24:00

David Carter stop allowing private investors to build on the land. Seems to be plenty of land available for HGGT and the developers who have just allowed the town centre to rot for goodness knows how many years. Can't legal action be taken to take the land and build on that. The town centre is derelict in places Ban right to but. It's just so depressing. I've lived her 50+ years and there used to be loads of council housing then selfish people were allowed to benefit financially by purchasing their council homes at bargain prices. Did they not think about the people coming up after them. I feel for the younger generation, there's barely any decent well paid employment in the town and no chance of getting out of the family home. I think harlow can be classified as an abject failure

Out of control
2023-11-14 17:29:52

It it is painfully obvious why the population has increased, there has been a massive influx into the town that started at least 15 years ago and has spiralled out of control Where are these people living, why has this been allowed to happen. People moving into a different country should have to support themselves financially, including housing and private healthcare in line with other countries. People have come here searching for a better life but the end result is destruction of our resources. And that's not because I'm drawn in my media trying to cause splits or shape goats within the population. I am going by my eyes and ears.

2023-11-14 17:55:26

@David Carter, so as a harlow worker who moved into the area to live with her partner and can VOTE down here in harlow but yet still can't get accommodation or should I say affordable accommodation.

2023-11-14 19:18:10

Much obliged for clarification James Leppard. I take the side of the comments back.

2023-11-14 20:07:53

Much obliged for clarification James.

James Leppard
2023-11-14 21:17:39

Thanks, Jay.

James Leppard
2023-11-14 21:43:11

Despair, the land you mention HGGT is firstly, not within the boundaries of Harlow Council; secondly, it is not owned by the council but is privately owned farmland. The owner will naturally sell to the highest bidder, as would anyone. The Council acquired land sites within town centre for major regeneration programme, details of which can be seen in the 'Discover Harlow' shop in the Harvey Centre , where resident may submit their views. As far as the Right to Buy is concerned, this is law and neither major party is proposing changes and hasn't since the RTB was established in 1980. Individual councils cannot change the law.

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-15 09:53:29

Then some one needs to change it, because unless this happens, I personally don't see a way out. You can not keep putting people in office blocks, just heard this week , office lock behind the big tescos, of Edinburgh way, is being made to house family's, if people refuse them, does this mean they go to the bottom of waiting list.??, is this the plan,if you refuse. The eara it self is no place to bring a family up, let alone the rabbit hutches you intend to put people in.. This would not be a fair change to the system at all.. speaking personally, I refused my first place many years back, wasn't fit to live in... This right is being took from them... James Leppard would you live in an office block.???

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-15 09:58:11

Ask your self why councils are buying private property s, back as council, I knew this would happen, no other way out... unless this law changes its only going to get worse. You have to have foresight to think a head.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-11-15 15:24:38

There are many issues raised in the proposal and the comments made, but there is one that has not been mentioned. When constructing a Local Plan, Local Authorities have to provide evidence of Local Need. Deleting anyone who falls in to Band 4 means that the true Housing Need in an area cannot be truly assessed.

James Leppard
2023-11-15 15:59:56

Nicholas, many other authorities do not have a Band D. Band D is not true housing need, I.e I would prefer a cheaper council property to renting privately. That is preference, not need. Ware also checking how many people in Band D were actually awarded property in the past 10 years. We suspect it is a handful, which doesn't justify the administrative costs involved. All people currently on Band D will be contacted to reapply and be reassessed. It is possible their circumstances may have changed to place them in a higher band. We also know that some moved from the District.

2023-11-16 09:35:40

There appears to be confusion on the 50k. Currently you cannot join the list if you earn over 50k which is quite a low value. They want to increase that value. More people who are unable to afford private but earn over 50k will be able to join if it gets raised. They are not saying people have to earn a minimum of 50k.

Harry Houdini
2023-11-16 10:23:59

Let’s see what happens, the average wait for a person born in Harlow is in the region of 20+ years unless they have kids, whilst a family from overseas less than 2 years.

2023-11-16 13:32:24

They need to stop taking the overspill from London boroughs. That's a big issue and the reason why people are left waiting longer than necessary to get a council place. Where are all the London borough people being housed, cos they're not on the bidding list. There all given places straight away whether it's terminus house, templefields or the pinnacles. When I was 18 many moons ago I went to the council and asked to put my name down. When asked how long the list was, I was told a 20 year wait. My parents moved to harlow in 1972. Things will never improve in harlow, if they don't look after harlow people first.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-11-17 23:44:28

I am afraid James you have no understanding of what housing need is all about, like most Tories. There are hundreds of people living in homes in multiple occupation, even more who have to spend the bulk of their income on a privately rented home and many people in their thirties and forties still having to live with their parents because they cannot afford to move out. Many of these people are existing from week to week, not living life to the full. There is no shortage of homes to buy in Harlow, there are virtually none to rent, hence the sky high rents in the private sector. The private sector has never built this country out of a housing crisis, this can only be done by the public sector. It should be noted that less than 8000 council homes were built across the whole country last year.

2023-11-18 19:24:23

James Leppard not privately renting is preference not a need ? Who can afford to rent a property privately on minimum wage or zero hour contracts ? The attitude that people in band 4 don't have a genuine housing need and just choose not to rent privately shows how out of touch you are unfortunately.

2024-04-01 22:52:29

3rd generation born here. Great Grandfather built the houses. Cannot afford private rent on full time wage. Will never get a council place unless I get pregnant. 5 girls my age got 2 bed flats before the kids were born. Mother needs retirement home instead of her house but is on band 3. Told to request exchange. Who is in a retirement home wanting to move to a house? We want to leave the country.

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