Council Criticised Over Lack Of Affordable Housing

Wendy Goodwin, Cabinet Member for Homes

CASTLE POINT BOROUGH COUNCIL (CPBC) was heavily criticised this week by the charity Shelter. Its Local Housing Watch revealed that there are 1,374 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in the constituency and that, at current letting rates, this will take over 14 years to clear.

One would, the charity says, have to earn £47,727 per year to afford to buy an average-priced house in the area – almost twice the average annual income of residents, which is just £24,778.

The average selling price of a home in the borough is £175,000 (down from some £200,000 in 2006)..

Shelter’s independent experts say Castle Point needs to build 209 homes per year; but criticise the council for not saying how many homes it intends to build. Just 10 new affordable homes were in fact delivered, on average, in each of the last three years.

Just 95 lettings were made to new social tenants last year.

46 households are considered as homeless, and 66 are housed in temporary accommodation.

With just five percent of the number of affordable homes delivered, Castle Point was rated at the bottom end of the charity’s housing league table. It was number 303 out of 323 councils rated, and performed particularly badly when compared to its Basildon and Southend neighbours – who were positioned 13th and 102nd respectively. Basildon delivered 91 percent of its 208 target, and Southend managed 26 percent of its 344.

Cllr Wendy Goodwin, Cabinet Member for Homes, was contacted regarding Shelter’s criticism; but no reply was received by the time this article was published.

Last year, the local Labour Party were suggesting that 1,014 empty homes in the borough could be utilised in solving the local housing problem; but that figure, from 2008, does not paint an accurate picture. Included in that headline total are natural and seasonal movements in the area’s housing as properties become empty waiting for new owners or tenants to move in – or remain temporarily unsold in a weak housing market.

Of that headline figure, 649 private properties (693 in 2009) were identified as having been empty for more than six months; but, once again, the figure also includes properties that await being sold or renovated by their owners. Furthermore, while it is probably true that some of these properties, if money were available, could be purchased by council to add to its housing stock, the truth of the matter is that, in most cases, renovating a run-down property is often likely to be more expensive than knocking it down and rebuilding from scratch.

In short, the option of buying-up aged empty properties is not the viable solution that many would like us to believe.

With projected Council income from Government likely to be cut by some 25 percent in response to Britain’s financial crisis, the outlook for overcoming the borough’s housing crisis in the short term is bleak. If there is to be a silver lining, it is only likely to come from the private sector in reaction to the 2012 Olympics and local town centre regeneration.

On Wednesday, the Development and Control Committee will meet to examine proposals by Barrett to develop the mainland’s Kiln Road site, which includes plans for 53 affordable new homes.

Locally, the plan is opposed by the Thundersley and Daws Heath Hands Off Our Greenbelt Action Group; but the plot is actually designated as possible building space and Barrett have sought to address the outstanding nature conservation issues on the site – as well as providing for contributions towards highway and public transport improvements, early years and childcare education.

Given the current financial crisis, and the borough’s poor housing record, it is difficult to see how the plans could be refused. It is probably the only option the borough has to provide suitable accomodation for its homeless.

On the island, the Town Council has made no attempt to identify private property availability; suitable building locations or, indeed, the housing needs of its residents. Instead, in line with Canvey Island Independent Party strategy, its position is simply to oppose any new homes on Canvey.

In this, the first real test for the CIIP since the local elections, and Blackwell’s comments here to ‘work with the ruling group,’ it will be interesting to see if that promise holds any truth. As the borough’s only opposition party, will they put the needs of the constituency’s homeless first? Or will they simply adopt their Canvey Island stance and oppose the only opportunity our most deprived residents (mostly islanders) have to better their conditions?

Wednesday evening’s vote will serve to make things clear…

… (CPBC, 26/05/2010) – Barrett proposals refused

… (28/05/2010) – So Much For Barrett’s ‘Proposals’

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2 Responses

  1. Its an awful record isn’t it Ted? and why the local hands off our greenbelt brigade should be getting involved is beyond me. The proposed site is not on Greenbelt!

  2. This land is designated land for housing if required, this is true .
    But it is also true that this was rejected by Local Cllrs ,and 2 appeal hearings so it is not what people wanted.
    The Officers at the Council have found locations for 4000 new homes that are not on greenbelt or green field sites why are these not being used first ?
    With the new Governments Policies these 4000 homes would be many more than is really required or wanted in the Borough of Castle Point.
    We are not trying to stop affordable housing just stop development in inappropriate places.

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