Tories announce “major shake-up” in allocation of council housing in Harlow

News / Mon 19th Feb 2024 at 01:28pm

Photo by Brian Thomas Photography

A MAJOR shakeup of the council’s housing system in Harlow has been agreed as part of Harlow Council’s priority to fix council housing.

At last Thursday’s (15 February) Cabinet meeting, proposals to change the allocations scheme were approved. These aim to make the process of applying for council housing easier and fairer, with the priority given to those in housing need who were born and bred in the town and have lived in Harlow for 7 years or more.

The changes, which will come into effect on 1 April 2024, follow a review of the policy which included full consultation with residents and local organisations. They are a direct result of the answers given in the consultation, benchmarking against other councils, and council officers’ own daily experiences of using the allocations policy.

As a result of the agreement, the following changes will now be implemented in April:

  • Increasing the local connection time from 5 years to 7 years, and removing local connection through family and working in the town to focus local connection on residency
  • The removal of Band 4 of the Housing Needs Register – there are currently 2,643 residents in this band who have no identified housing need 
  • Increasing the lower age limit to apply from 16 to 18
  • Strengthened priority for those ‘born and bred’ in Harlow
  • Raising the household earnings cap from £50,000 to a stepped approach depending on the property size
  • Redefined criteria and priority for applicants linked to the Armed Forces
  • The quota of properties made available to third party agencies for supported housing is to be reviewed
  • Time-limited bidding be removed for homeless applicants (currently 3 months) and Band 1 priority be awarded for a maximum of 6 months
  • The definition of a carer, who requires a separate bedroom, be defined as: “A carer who provides permanent 24-hour ‘live in’ care – confirmation is required from social services – will be eligible for an additional bedroom.”
  • More effective management of refusal of properties, where applicants can refuse one property but refusal of a second will result in a bidding suspension of 12 months
  • Living in a flat above ground floor with children will no longer be considered as an assessed housing need
  • Deliberately worsening circumstances to secure a move will now result in exclusion from the Housing Needs register for 2 years
  • The removal of ‘tied tenants’ (those who live in council housing as part of their employment, such as a caretaker) from Band 1; there are no tied tenants in Harlow
  • Band 2 priority to be given to two council households who wish to move into a single property together

At this time no-one needs to contact the council as information on the changes will be sent out directly to everyone currently on the register.

Due to the extensive nature of these changes, and the fact that at present there are around 5,500 people on the Harlow Housing Needs Register, a phased implementation of the new policy will be carried out from 1 April. Anyone newly applying to join the register from April will be immediately subject to the new criteria; for existing applicants, between 1 April and 1 October 2024 the council will manage implementation of the new policy, with a requirement for all applicants to re-apply to ensure they meet the new eligibility criteria.

Re-application will need to be complete by 1 October as a new online applications system will be live from this date.

Commenting on the changes, Councillor David Carter, deputy leader and cabinet portfolio holder for housing, said:

“This is a major overhaul of how we allocate housing here in Harlow and shows how serious we are about making sure Harlow homes go to Harlow people. Under the changes we are giving greater priority to those in housing need who have lived here for more than 7 years and were born and bred in Harlow.

“One of our main priorities over the past year has been to fix council housing – that priority stretches beyond simply improving housing repairs, which we have been doing, but also making the council’s housing system truly works better for our residents. It is necessary to make changes given the feedback that we get from residents and the concerns that our residents have that people from other councils will get the priority for homes. Our changes tighten and strengthen the system, so that we can genuinely say that council homes are for Harlow people.  

“With an acute shortage of council housing, unfortunately, we can’t house everyone who wants a home only those who need a home. The changes ensure that the housing register is just for those most in housing need. 

“There is much work to be done, in addition to the huge amount already carried out on this project, to put it all into action but we are fully committed to making the system work for Harlow people and we will keep you all informed as we make progress throughout the year.”

Full details on these changes will be made available on the council’s website, www.harlow.gov.uk in the coming weeks.


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44 Comments for Tories announce “major shake-up” in allocation of council housing in Harlow:

2024-02-19 15:38:00

About time!

2024-02-19 15:41:38

Anyone would think there's an election coming.

Wendy Morley
2024-02-19 16:21:52

More Bungalows should be built alot of disabled people and pensioners are stuck in flats with stairs making everything harder for them

2024-02-19 16:30:24

At last , someone with some common sense.

Hey Big Spender
2024-02-19 17:04:03

As others have pointed out, an election is imminent. But, someone has to start somewhere with implementing changes to the housing system, so may as well be now. Bungalows are needed for elderly and disabled folk. If you want them to relinquish their council homes, you have to make it easier for them to move out. Give them a bungalow.

2024-02-19 18:09:26

I agree wholeheartedly with this policy

Clare Harrison (McCartney)
2024-02-19 18:21:09

I have letters from the dr saying I need a bungalow . These have been ignored for two years now and I’m still in band three. I’m in my fifties now and I’m third generation Harlow. Both sets of my grandparents moved here in the 1950’s. I’ve done charity events for this town and even went to parliament (when I was well), to try to get youth services back in Harlow. I benefited from playschemes when I was a child and won talent competitions and was once a playscheme queen ( haaa look at me now I’ve got a face for radio in my fifties and I refuse to have Botox because it will make me look like David gest). Robert halfon was great to me when I went to parliament to fight for youth services , even though I was on the opossing party. I’ve tried to help this town because I’m proud of Harlow and still I’m on the bottom of the housing pile . I’ve been in my flat eight years and a young healthy person could have this flat who is waiting on the list- someone who has fought for this country in the services could live here like they deserve to and not be left on the street- if only I could be awarded a bungalow away from noise , I just want peace in my life now at this age (I’m neurodivergent). Neurodivergent folk are not on this list and we should be. We have needs and should be honoured for this, along with ptsd, anxiety and depression. Please build more bungalows and allocate them. Thank you.

Glen griffiths
2024-02-19 18:30:10

How many elderly in 3 bed homes, answer lots,build nice one bed bungalows with a small garden and you free up a 3 bed house. It's not rocket science, getting two homes for the price of one.

2024-02-19 18:47:15

Removal of band 4 is disgusting. Single people on low income stuck at home with their parents well into adulthood, or forced to pay off someone else's mortgage in outrageously high private rents are not a housing need? This is just a stripping of local people from the housing list. I do believe a statement was made along the lines of 'social housing as a life choice rather than an actual need' . This is an absolute disgrace. I hope these poor people will be properly assessed for housing need before turfing them off the list. Also if you're going to make it harder to refuse a property then you need to make sure the properties are maintained to a decent standard and handed to new tenants in a liveable condition. A lot of these places are absolutely shocking. Bring back inspections and chuck out those who wreck the places they're fortunate enough to receive

Mr Derek Clark
2024-02-19 19:05:06

Why didn't Labour think of doing this, because it was beyond them like everything else. Someone put on here ' an election is coming' I'll say it again, it was beyond the thinking power of any labour officer and just like the millions that the conservatives are using to bring Harlow back up to a standard that it has lacked for years, the town needs an uplift and the people of Harlow need to be housed as a priority. Well done councillors.

Martin Haines
2024-02-19 19:07:44

So what happens to the single mums that have worked their socks off to provide for their two children with no help from the dead beat dads that refuse to help or support? My youngest granddaughter has medical needs that should have entitled her to a property with a garden. Because my eldest granddaughter has turned 16 she is entitled to her own bedroom but the council have dragged their heels. My daughter has now been on the list for nine years which now mean her eldest daughter has now turned 18 this year. And I’m guessing she will be too old to be on the list.

2024-02-19 19:51:11

Totally agree, about time this was done👍

Mark Words
2024-02-19 21:58:40

Conservatives have been in power for over a decade. You can't just announce you're going to fix the issues caused while you have been in power. And this is the same as the rhetoric before the last election. This time it's about being "Born and bred", last time the wording was "Harlow homes for Harlow people". Either way it's a paper thin dogwhistle.

2024-02-20 07:43:38

Smoke and mirrors just for the up and coming general election but you’ll all take the bait again then moan and grown after the Tories drop the changes when they’ve got your votes under false promises/pretences again.

gary roberts
2024-02-20 07:46:42

I heard this approach back in the early 1990's when Tenant Advisory Groups were set up to "represent" tenants' views. Hand picked tenants across the town were co-opted by the council resulting in watered down rights to a drought. Band 4 would never have been dropped then because families had single teenage children wanting a council home. With its removal those teenagers' today will have to go private and that will hurt. Still "no right to buy" council homes on the list of proposals: why not? And of course this Conservative council likes issuing "new" policies on housing and levelling up just before elections and then forgotten afterwards. Will it happen again?

Nicholas Taylor
2024-02-20 08:05:28

As can be seen from these comments it is a case of divide and rule by the Tory Party. The conversion of offices to flats was a Tory policy to increase the number of homes built, but as we all know the outcome of this was that rabbit hutch size flats were built often in totally unsuitable locations, far from shops and schools which ended up occupied by families from many miles from where they had come from. As Gary has pointed out, the change of policy condemns single people on a low income from ever getting their own council flat, the Tories simply don't understand that such people have a housing need. It also condemns most families living in council flats from ever getting a council house. The whole allocation system is fundamentally flawed, the need for every council home to be built for older residents to vacate the homes they no longer need has never been more acute, which is one of the key policies of the Harlow Alliance Party..

2024-02-20 08:47:26

It doesn't help the system at all. My council have been doing this for the last 6 years. We are in need of a three bed property. Two children a 13 yo girl and 6 yo boy share a room, even the landlords have said the rooms can't be divided and living room can't be used as a bedroom due to layout. Yet 3 years on I'm still coming over 20. Be luckily to get a bid in for my local connection. Last year we could only bid 5 times as there are no houses, yet if we bid outside our area we are band E. Yet we have a failed flooring in our property mostisure, damp and mould have damage flooring. Landlord has been out and done tests. 6 months on still waiting to find out what is happening. Social housing isn't great.

2024-02-20 09:28:25

The housing situation in this country and needs reform private and council. I think we know a lot of reasons why. This change in policy is all wrong. I have a son who at 42 still lives with me he ìs suffering from anxiety and depression and cannot at tge moment work- no he isnt a shirker he is mentally ill. He was offered a room if you can call it that in Terminus Hsea dusgusting place for anyone to live let alone a vulnerable person full of undesirables. I have tried to help with a privately rented place but they are above his price threshold. As a parent I am really concerned about him coping with health issues self care eating and drinkin etc when I am not around. He has only lived with me for 3 years so technically not eligible and has been told by someone at Harlow council that as a single male he has no chance of being housed by the council, I wonder if this is discrimination. By the way he wasnt born and bred in Harlow but he was born and bred in the UK he is just down on his luck but cant get help it is absolutly disgusting and No party is getting my vote council or government!!

2024-02-20 10:05:03

Whilst housing is regarded as a privilege not a right in a civilised society and whilst owning a home as a pension because our state pensions are poor when compared with other EU countries then property developers and the rich will continue to live off the backs of the poor. Harlow was built as part of a radical new approach, provision of good quality low rise homes with gardens for thousands. Move out of rented slums and bombed out areas of London and get a new job, the keys to a decent home & a new life. It was afforded even at a time when the country was short of cash as was the NHS. It's time the politicians of today adopted the same ideals rather throwing money at the French for schemes that'll never work like Sizewell C and Stopping Boats and foreign speculators in the housing market.

Kim Oconnor
2024-02-20 10:26:49

We have people in high rise flats,with medical needs,that should not be there. We have 6,000 waiting on homes, we have people struggling in private rented property s,that should have a cap on rents years back. We have a council that would rather have people from other councils being housed before our own.. we have a serious lack of council houses, that have not been built for years, because they would rather sell sell sell to developers for a profit, before the needs of this town. This list goes on and on.. As for council repairs, 😄 David Carter, I had to put a new toilet system in my council house, because all your lot done was replaced ball cock, which says to me , you are doing house repairs, but you are cutting corners and doing it on cheap, if repairs get done at all. Take a walk around Harlow David Carter, take a good look around.... David Carter I have two friends that have all ready said to Mr Dan swords, I would give my two bed house up for a bungalow, that was a year and half ago.. no response as yet... you could free theses property s up, if you put money into building property s ,for the needs of people and not just to line your own pockets for this ridiculous regeneration regeneration, who's this for,, not for people who need homes,, because who can bloody afford them, who they benefiting not Harlow people that's for sure.. So don't give us the big one about housing for people bred and born here first, because we all know by now, this is a lie. You let other councils bring in there people, then when there's a public out cry,, you all defend the situation, by saying you did not know anything about it, don't make us laugh. Perhaps if you secured theses things first maybe. Jezz. Don't make us laugh.

John Duggan
2024-02-20 11:10:31

Kim O'Connor, Nicholas Taylor and others, Harlow had a population of 81,900 in 2011; by 2021 it had increased 14% to 93,566. It is now probably around 96,000. We are one the smallest districts on the region with a mere 11.79 sq miles. Our territory has remained unchanged so our population density, already high in 2011, has increased from 7,000 per sq mile to around 8,142. Where is the land to build all these bungalows and new homes you talk of without destroying our well-planned green areas that everybody want to preserve? Like the rest of the country, we are over-populated. Simply whinging will not produce any results. We have to say the inn is full. There is no more room and what there is must be for genuine Harlow people in most need. We have to stop other boroughs placing their people here.

2024-02-20 11:11:27

It is definitely a vote winner but we have heard it all before from the Tories. "Harlow homes for Harlow people" and new hospitals. The town center is run down and all this Tory council can do is a temporary fix to Market Square while Small remains closed for years. Our children having to move out of town as they cannot get a council home. All they talk about is 'Affordable housing', affordable to whom? Schools falling down and being demolished houses falling into disrepair and roads that damage our cars due to potholes.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-02-20 14:33:10

John Duggan. Both labour and the Conservatives had/have plans in the pipeline to build at least 200 council homes on various sites around the town, almost all of them on brownfield sites. On the other hand there are hundreds of larger homes which are occupied by just one or two residents and at the last count it was known that 83 of them were on the council list looking for a smaller home. Building bungalows for older residents means that that is a constant rotation of homes becoming available, indeed even now the council rehouse about 600 families each year. The population increase is of course almost solely due to the thousands of homes built in the private sector, the fact that none of these have been built specifically for older people means that in the longer term many of these resident will suffer the same issues as those in the public sector, that is, we are not making best use of the limited space we have in the town. Within the next two decades we will have to say the town is full. And at some further stage someone will have to decided that this country is full, if we are to maintain food production and space for leisure activities.

John Duggan
2024-02-20 15:48:31

This policy makes sense. The Band D have had one property allocated in 7 years! It is an illusion. Our waiting list looks bigger than comparable authorities in other New towns because they don't have this category. If there is only one allocation on 7 years it must be costing more to administer than it is worth. It creates a false hope. Much better concentrate on those with the greatest needs. But we are at saturation point in Harlow and must stop London boroughs sending people here.

Kim Oconnor
2024-02-20 15:48:33

John Duggan. We know all that, don't you think we know this..just don't,just don't bring our green spaces into it, because this council would concrete over any spare green space if it made a quick buck for them, which it's done .I'll remind you that they thought nothing of building a 4 lane road over our river stort valley, and thousands upon thousands of unaffordable housing all round our boarders, hemming us in like chicken s, and none of them will go to Harlow.. so just don't go there. Bringing in thousands of more people into this town, with no infrastructure what so ever.. I say again who for, not for this town... As nick said you had plans to build 200 council houses. What happened a. Instead all there doing is, knocking garages and shops down, and leaving them to sit for how long, who knows. Don't even go there with green belt. Admit it , your no different to labour when it comes to putting the town first, no difference what so ever.

Tony Wiseman
2024-02-20 17:40:04

Kim Oconnor. The leader of the local Green Party has confirmed, and you can check this on their web site, that you want to run to be a councillor. So instead of repeating the same complaints about other parties over and over again please tell us what you and your party would do if you get elected. Thank you

Bruce Downey
2024-02-20 17:48:25

Well if she does run.. she will have to get into shape..😏

James Leppard
2024-02-20 18:29:00

Kim O'Connor, regarding new council homes, why don't you go to Staple Tye and see the sites where works have started for the construction of new council homes. It is just at the South end of Abercrombie Way. I am sure you can't miss it.

Kim Oconnor
2024-02-20 19:16:05

James Leppard, it was all rubble last I looked, what about elms hatch, what about the stow, what about market Square, need I go on, and I'm sure there a lot more.. so you telling me your actually laying bricks at staple tye, well I must go see that . 😄

James Leppard
2024-02-20 19:28:33

Kim O'Connor, I am not a master builder (you certainly aren't) but I am reliably informed that preparing the ground and laying foundations is the standard practice for construction. I may of course be wrong and the Greens now start from the roof downwards. By the way their are no plans to build houses in Market Square; not even bungalows.The development that has commenced in the Town Centre is the new Playhouse Quarter on the former Occasio House site. You might recall that even Rome wasn't built in a day.

Kim Oconnor
2024-02-20 19:32:43

🤣🤣🤣 dear oh dear James. Sarcasm as usual. But no details.

James Leppard
2024-02-20 19:39:31

Go to Staple Tye. Work has started.

Kim Oconnor
2024-02-20 20:25:41

And all the other places. ???

James Leppard
2024-02-20 21:41:30

Kim O'Connor instead of fencing with me, why don't you try to answer Tony Wiseman's perfectly reasonable request for clarification:"So instead of repeating the same complaints about other parties over and over again please tell us what you and your party would do if you get elected". I am sure we would all be fascinated to hear. Thanks.

2024-02-20 22:15:21

So many people in these comments expect the council to look after them. You are adults your responsible for yourselves and family, stop asking what the council can do for you and start asking what you can do for yourself or your family. No wonder taxes are so high and government so intrusive when most adults want to be treated like children still.

Harlow resident
2024-02-20 22:47:01

I can't wait to move out of Harlow. It used to be a decent place to live, but not anymore. I am actually embarrassed to tell people that I live in Harlow.

Big Ash
2024-02-20 22:58:37

Typical benefit culture in some of these comments, expecting everything for free. No wonder the town looks like a socialist sh..whole, all grey and ugly not too mention road quality and crime levels on the constant rise. 33% of the towns council and these people want just more and more. Take responsibility for your own life and don't expect council to hold your hand only cos you're alive ffs. There are thousands out there paying private rates earning same as you so why should you be privileged by paying 25% of what is market value? All this council benefit malarkey should be scrapped and only those in serious need like elderly and disabled should be helped. The rest of the money should go towards education, public transport, roads and public services e.g police and health. Other countries don't have no benefit culture and they do just fine than so can we. Thanks Big Ash

2024-02-20 23:30:27

14 years of rubbish, austerity and neglect suddenly an election coming the tories must think people in harlow are thick. Everything in the country is broken there is litterally not one part of today's british like that's going well.. If anyone can tell me different feel free. I really dont know how ANYONE could justify voting conservative.

Kim Oconnor
2024-02-21 10:59:19

James Leppard, Tony wiseman, you only need to go to our Web site, it's all there for you both to see... But this post was not about my party.

James Leppard
2024-02-21 12:28:33

Thanks Kim. I just visited the Harlow Green website. Policies were very vague and general. However, the events section was interesting: Last Christmas' Fayre on 2 December; Harlow Green Party Annual Quiz on 29 October, 2023 and the Greenfest for 17 September, 2023. I do hope your policies are more up to date than your events.

gary roberts
2024-02-21 13:18:14

Something else the Conservatives will put on their leaflets: Staple Tye starts building five [5] homes for over 5,000 on the waiting list. Hold that front page! Will they be council homes in two years?

2024-02-21 13:47:42

Gary Roberts, you should lay off the moonshine, mate!

gary roberts
2024-02-21 13:53:26

Pete, thanks for your advice; now answer the question I posed?

David Forman
2024-02-21 14:36:13

As I regularly walk past the old Lister House doctors surgery in Staple Tye, I can confirm Councillor James Leppard is correct; work has started on the foundations. Anyone who cannot spot the massive digger needs a trip to the opticians.

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