Harlow Greens issue response to housing allocation scheme
Politics / Sun 24th Dec 2023 at 10:01am
Housing allocation scheme consultation
WE want to ensure that local homes are let to genuinely local people and want to strengthen our policy to ensure this happens in all cases.
We propose that homes will only be let to those who have lived in Harlow for a significant period. Currently there is a 5 year residency requirement. However, we want to strengthen this and are considering either a 7 year requirement or a 10 year requirement. This would bring Harlow’s policy in line with some other surrounding areas such as Epping and Basildon whose current criteria is 7 years.
Local connection through family connection or employment will no longer be valid (except in very exceptional circumstances).
We are also considering giving extra priority (such as backdating applications by 12 months) to those who were born in Harlow and still live here.
Do you agree with this proposal? *
Harlow Green Party do not agree with this proposal.
5 years is a significant time period in anyone’s life, however, it is all relative. For a child who has started school at aged 5, it is almost the entirety of their primary education. If you are classified as homeless and in temporary accommodation, 5 years may feel like an indeterminable prison sentence. 5 years is sufficient time for an applicant to contribute to the financial economy of the area and to become embedded within the community.
Many people moved to Harlow at a young age and many people born in Harlow would have been from outside of Harlow (two notable births being Victoria Beckham and Laura Kenny who were born in PAH but their parents resided in Hertfordshire).
A local connection through employment or a family support network is very much of importance and this criteria should be retained.
Priority should be on a case by case basis which can only be assessed if you have sufficient resources to properly evaluate the application.
The Housing Needs Register is currently open to every resident to apply, regardless of housing need. Those who apply but have no actual housing need are placed in Band 4. The Council rarely allocates homes to people in Band 4. In fact, during 2022/23, no lettings were made to people in this band, apart from lettings to dedicated older person housing schemes (over 65 years)
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.
The proposal is to remove Band 4 from the Housing Needs Register. Applicants will be reassessed but if they have no housing need and no prospects of rehousing, they will no longer be eligible.
For older people with a local connection to Harlow, who want to move into age restricted supported accommodation, we will continue to accept them onto the Housing Needs Register, because these properties are sometimes in low demand.
Do you agree with this proposal?
Harlow Green Party do not agree with this proposal.
Housing Need means a situation where a person’s accommodation (if he is currently occupying accommodation) is for whatever reason unsuitable for his housing requirements and he cannot afford to buy or rent a dwelling more appropriate to meet his needs on the open market.
The issue here is the lack of affordability to rent or buy. Rent levels are high because there are too many people who have to rent, and not enough homes available. Rents can only be reduced sustainably by increasing the overall supply of all types of homes, so that more people can get a social home or buy their own with a mortgage, and fewer private renters have to compete over each available home.
In 2012, Shelter proposed the Stable Rental Contract: a five year fixed-term contract, during which renters could not be evicted without very good reason, and their rents could not rise by more than inflation. Not only would this give renters the stability they need to put down roots and raise a family, it would also have a calming effect on rents by reducing churn and increasing renters’ bargaining power.
Currently households who have a household income of over £50k per year, are excluded from joining the Housing Needs Register on the basis that they have the financial resources to find alternative forms of accommodation in the private sector, through renting or shared ownership. This has been in our policy since 2013.
However, we find that even applicants earning over this amount struggle to find homes locally and have to move out Harlow.
We have been exploring whether to set different income thresholds for different household sizes which reflects their ability to seek a home in the private sector appropriate to the number of bedrooms they need.
The proposal is, that we increase the thresholds so those that have an income of over £50K per year and to explore further income thresholds for the size of the property required to access the Housing Needs Register.
Do you agree with raising this threshold?
Yes, Harlow Green Party agree with raising this threshold with a caveat.
If you are looking to reduce the council house register, surely this would increase the number of applicants. That said, on a salary of £50,000 your take home pay would be roughly £37,200 after tax and NI contributions. This works out at around £3,100 a month and £715 a week. The national average salary for a Key worker is £24,587 and it is these key workers that originally had council houses (social houses) in Harlow 75 years ago which helped build the infrastructure around the homes.
Priority should be given to those that need social housing and their application assessed on their income of the past 6 months, particularly with how much has been spent on rental costs and deposits.
We try to give housing register applicants as much choice as possible over the home they choose for themselves and their families. However, there is a severe shortage of homes in Harlow, and we need to make sure that people are realistic about their housing choices. People can bid for up to three homes each bidding cycle. However, what we are finding is that people refuse offers of accommodation even on a home they have selected. We need to manage this because it wastes time and means that homes stand empty for longer than they should.
The proposal is to retain the ability to bid for up to three homes each cycle, but to introduce stricter penalties for people who refuse reasonable offers of accommodation. This could include being suspended from the register for 12 months, unable to bid.
Do you agree with this proposal?
No, Harlow Green Party do not agree with this proposal.
Harlow council need to understand why these homes are being rejected if someone has bid on them. Does the communication between the applicant and the Housing officer need improving? Is the bidding process perhaps over complicated and should be reviewed as a separate project. You would also need to clarify ‘reasonable offers of accommodation’.
We have a real shortage of adapted properties; these are properties that may not originally have been designed for people with a disability or mobility need but have since been altered to accommodate these requirements. So, when these become available for letting, it is sensible to make sure they are offered to housing register applicants who have a need for the type of adaptations the home already has.
We are proposing to re-look at the categories we have for adapted properties. This will mean that homes can be assessed in a more detailed way and then matched with people with the specific need for that type of adaptation. This will mean that less work will be required either to change some existing adaptations, or to add more – making better use of what we have.
Do you agree that this will help to ensure homes with adaptations will be more closely matched to the needs of the housing applicant?
This would seem to make sense. More information is required on this point, maybe list the current categories you have for adapted properties and work with the recently formed Disability Working Group on the new categories.
Many years ago, the Council introduced a “quota” scheme which effectively gave several organisations across Harlow, nomination rights for priority. For example, someone in supported housing with the organisation, and they no longer require support. The organisation could then nominate for additional priority on our Housing Needs Register, up to a maximum number of nominations per annum. The reason is to make available supported housing for those that most need it.
This has not been reviewed for some time, with some of the organisations no longer being active in Harlow, and some providing nominations that conflict with the Councils own managing of supply and demand.
We propose to review the Quota Scheme, with a view to introducing a different scheme or arrangement that manages move on in certain temporary/supported accommodation schemes and is more targeted to certain client groups. We will also consider manging these moves on a case by case basis.
Do you agree with this need to review these quota arrangements?
Yes, Harlow Green Party do agree to review the quota arrangements and for the organisations to be transparent in how their nominees benefited under the old system. Will this open up a new stream for other organisations to nominate people?
We are also looking at several other criteria and policy changes including:
Updating our approach to domestic abuse
Updating our approach to assisting those with a military background
The priority given to households with children living in flats
Improving definitions in some areas so officers can apply the policy more robustly (eg where applicants have deliberately worsened their circumstances to achieve priority, exclusions for ASB and other areas)
Reviewing the definitions of overcrowding, in line with best practice
Ensuring that those placed in temporary accommodation by other Councils do not have access to local housing over and above Harlow residents.
Are there other changes you would like to see in addition to these?
Harlow Green Party would like to be involved as part of any dialogue with Harlow Council concerning the above. In particular there is an anomaly whereby people in temporary accommodation from other councils are classed as residents of that council yet pay council tax and are eligible to vote in Harlow.
Harlow Council should be working with Health Care Professionals and Educationalists when considering where they house applicants with children.
We have a housing crisis and we should be building social housing, fit for purpose and in accordance with healthy home guidelines. We need better infrastructures now because the town cannot cope. This is not a Harlow problem, it is a national problem.
As a former manager of Council housing in Harlow and Epping I can say that much of this is tinkering around the edges and does little to address the real issue, which is about making the best use of the housing stock. The top priority should be to provide good quality, modern homes for older residents who WISH to downsize from their present home, making way for families to take up occupation of family sized homes. There are 83 tenants registered for a smaller home, hundreds more living in homes which are now bigger than they need. Removing band four would mean that the real housing need in the area is not addressed, a vital element when a council produces a Local Plan. There is little space left in this town to build on, building upwards only creates more problems in the long term. Nicholas Taylor, Leader of the Harlow Alliance Party.
The removal of band 4 is a terrible move. The minimum period of time in Harlow should be ten years to reduce the number of people jumping the queue which prevents band 4 people accessing housing. Blocking other authorities using harlow as a dumping ground for all their own homeless issues would be a good start. These people become eligible for housing within harlow after they have been here for 3 years, I believe it is. The 50k should remain as it is or even be reduced. Employment in the area is poor with very few well paid jobs, council housing should be prioritised to those on the lowest incomes, raising the threshold will just increase the waiting list by opening up to people on a higher income. Build more council housing and block private developments especially those that back out of social housing commitments. I currently feel that no political party represents me, I honestly don't know what to do at the next election.
Just to add, i definitely feel the family and employment connections should be removed as a justification for housing. We have had such a massive influx of people that this is unsustainable and would continue to swamp the housing lists. It should only be people who are currently residing in harlow in temporary accommodation for at least 20 years, including adults trapped in the childhood home.
Sorry, 10 years, not 20
Harlow homes for Harlow people born and bred and they should be a top priority. We have a huge amount of people in Harlow that clearly come from everywhere and it seems that most of them have a home and some of these foreign nationals have 1 child and they are in a council house,yet a family member has not long ago moved into a council flat,not house but a flat third floor no lift and has very young children and ge was born and bred in Harlow over 30 years ago,it does make me angry. Cant wait for comments.LOL!! OR MY COMMENT DELETED.LOL!!!!
Harlow Greens are the best support the Conservative Party could ask for. Harlow Greens ran for every single Council seat in the last three years and haven't even come close to winning a single seat. They usually come third or fourth or fifth. But every seat where Conservatives won it was by a margin over Labour smaller than the votes won by Green. If Green weren't splitting the Left vote it would be a lot easier for Labour to win. Green can't win a parliamentary seat anywhere other than Brighton Pavillion, definitely not in a Conservative stronghold. Pretending Green can win is just going to cost Labour seats.
Eric, evidence from across the country shows that if a Party has enough convincing policies in a local area, local independent Parties and the Greens can win council seats and indeed take over the running of Councils. What recent By-Elections have shown is that support for the Tories has drained away, but this has not seen more people vote for Labour. If enough people see that they have an alternative choice, change can happen. We in the Harlow Alliance Party have a very different view of the future of Harlow than that of the other two Parties, changing the towns boundaries to ensure that the future of the Green Belt is decided by Councillors in Harlow and not Epping and Hertford, changing the plan for the Town Centre to exclude high rise flat blocks for example and building far more homes for older people who could downsize their home to allow families to move in. Keeping voting the same means only one thing, that is, more of the same. Nicholas Taylor, Leader of the Harlow Alliance Party.
Bemused by the current stand of the local Greens. When I was criticised recently by a member of the group for not being more supportive of Chris Vince's tilt at becoming MP when enquiring why the Greens were not doing likewise, I understood this to mean a 2 horse race as per usual for this seat. Now it appears the wind is blowing in another direction. I am sure both parties needs no assistance from any minor party standing. Please could someone outline whose attempt you are trying to disrupt?