Empty properties in Southend-on-Sea – why are we still building?

Local Authority Total Dwellings  Total Empty % Empty
Tendring 68,087 2,560 3.76%
Southend-on-Sea 79,008 2,676 3.39%
Epping Forest 54,689 1,562 2.86%
Thurrock 64,553 1,805 2.80%
Castle Point 37,633 1,034 2.75%
Braintree 62,477 1,652 2.64%
Uttlesford 33,335 880 2.64%
Colchester 76,269 1,910 2.50%
Rochford 34,664 863 2.49%
Brentwood 32,299 780 2.41%
Basildon 75,487 1,795 2.38%
Maldon 26,998 633 2.34%
Chelmsford 71,611 1,555 2.17%
Harlow 36,003 684 1.90%
753,113 20,389 2.71%

The numbers above are taken from the Empty Homes website and are for 2012. They show the numbers of empty dwellings for all the Essex local authorities. The numbers are self-explanatory, but some further information is also needed to fully understand what is happening.

The regional average is 2.72%, and the national average is 3.06% – Southend-on-Sea comfortably beats both these numbers. Doubtless the development-loving local Tories will see this as vindication of their concretisation policies.

For Southend-on-Sea the ownership of the empty homes is as follows:

147       Local authority

30         Housing associations

2499     Private owners

Of course, 100% occupancy would be impossible. Probate issues and the gaps between lets would account for some of these. However, what is worrying is the number of long-term empty properties. In Southend-on-Sea for 2012 this stood 809 – some 1.02% of the total number of dwellings. (By this measure Southend-on-Sea falls to third in Essex, but is still above average.)

There has been a drop in these numbers, but this is marginal. I think there are some questions that it would be interesting to have answered:

  • Why does Southend-on-Sea have the second highest percentage of empty properties in Essex?
  • Why are we still building new properties when the numbers of empty properties have remained consistently high?
  • Why are we threatening green spaces if we still have over eight hundred long term empty properties?
  • Have we allowed the wrong type of property to be built?
  • What has the local authority done about the numbers of empty properties? It gives the impression that it is content with the situation.
  • We can all see the rise in the numbers of those sleeping rough. Do we take pride in this, because those empty properties could be housing these people?
  • Is the desire by those who make planning decisions to cover every square inch with concrete more important than meeting real housing need?

8 Responses to Empty properties in Southend-on-Sea – why are we still building?

  1. iangilbert says:

    The Labour government provided for Empty Homes Management Orders to give local authorities the power to take over properties that were empty for long periods. It wasn’t the easiest bit of legislation to use, but I believe it did act as a deterrent to people leaving their properties empty for long periods – often the threat of EHMO made owners do something about the property. I think SBC could have been a lot speedier in applying these powers.

    However, the Conservatives have changed the law so that the council has no power to act unless the property is actually derelict, subject to ASB etc.

    Therefore whilst it is morally reprehensible that houses are standing empty for long periods, the council has little that it can do. Changing the council tax exemptions and discounts as we’ve done recently may make a small difference to the financial incentives, but I doubt it will make a huge difference.

  2. Nice to see the Leader of your Group defending the Administration’s actions. At least he isn’t using every opportunity to suggest the council hasn’t done anything!

    To help get properties back into circulation the Conservative Administration in Southend has:

    ● Put a 50% surcharge on all properties we can that are vacant for two or more years;
    ● Halved the length of time you receive an exemption (from six to three months) if the property isn’t undergoing major works and is unfurnished and unoccupied (if it’s furnished there is no exemption); and
    ● Reduced the discount for undertaking major structural repairs from 100% to 25% (for one year, then full council tax is payable).

    In addition to this, the Conservative Administration has stopped second home owners getting any discount on their council tax.

    13 years of Labour rule didn’t allow us to do this.

    What a dreadful bunch us Tories are…..

  3. iangilbert says:

    Ah yes James, when the council does something right and popular it’s “the Administration’s actions” when the council does something unpopular or wrong it’s usually something like “agreed by a cross-party group of councillors”.

    The changes to Council Tax were suggested and agreed by pre-cabinet scrutiny I believe.

    What the Conservatives in government have done in watering down the empty homes legislation is reprehensible though.

  4. Pot, kettle I think there Ian!

    Anything that goes wrong, irrespective of what it actually is will be blamed on the Administration. So when we propose something that is good, why shouldn’t we take the credit for it? Especially when one of your Group wants to knock us for not having done anything about it.

    There again Julian likes to be a half glass empty for everything in Southend. Most of the Labour Group (in particularly, but sadly not solely) seem to like to knock everything that happens because it happened under a Tory Administration – really? Let’s try and be a bit more grown up about it. It is the same as me saying everything that happened nationally between 1997 and 2010 was wrong. I’m sure I could find something decent if I thought long and hard about it, just like you could for 2010-present 🙂

    And to be fair (as I said before), even though there’d be red flag in the middle of you if we chopped you in half, you are generally an honourable exception.

  5. jayman says:

    personally i am surprised the Southend dose not have a greater number of unoccupied homes. I consider the stoic and hardened mindset of the local population who have to endure the lowest standard of rental stock in Europe. Parts of Southend are a few shades brighter then a slum (but only a few). the real issue here I fear is that there are some damp, rat infested ‘shoe boxes’ that not even we southendians would care to inhabit. The landlords of such places tend to slap on a laughable rent. If you want a property without, damp, mould, rodents or a boiler that was not recovered from the titanic then you have to pay a premium for such luxurious positives.

    In my own personal situation i have a boiler that has recently conked out. I rent so i got on to my letting agent. after three weeks they got back to me and began to push for me to apply for the eco scheme. they insisted that i provide all my financial details to a private company i had never heard of before. I did a bit of research and basically, under the scheme, i would be paying for the boiler with the energy savings I made with the new boiler. I phoned the letting agent up, used colourful language, and informed them to inform the landlord that he would have to pay for his own bloody boiler, its what i pay £825 per month for the displeasure of. not so that I can pay off his mortgage.

    yes! Southend has empty homes. like the one i currently occupy, they are the cash cows of scum bag landlords. The slums no one wants to live in.

  6. James Courtenay: Your administration has been so poor that is hard to find anything to be positive about. Never mind though, you have the SBC publicity machine giving you enough praise. As I have had to point out to your leader, Cllr Holdcroft, this is not North Korea and opposition is allowed. My role is to hold you to account – you may even attempt the same if the roles are reversed.

    I accept that some, limited, measures are now being taken; my campaigning is obviously paying off. However, how do you explain the years of doing nothing? These empty dwellings have been a blot on the landscape and your party has largely ignored it. Still, I expect most of these empty properties are not in Thorpe Bay or West Leigh.

    Now, back to those Empty Dwelling Management Orders – why were so few issued?

  7. Irene says:

    An anouncment by the present administration gave local councils the power to raise the council tax on empty properties once the empty property has been empty for two years or more. The charge raised is i understand is 50% above the normal council tax for the property concerned.

    It might be worth enquiring of the council how much extra they have received as a resuilt of the new powers, which came into forcein April of this year.

    The Council also employs an Empty Homes Officer.

    Alan Grubb

  8. David Trayner says:

    Hey Julian,

    Can you give me a call about this ASAP as I’m hoping to write a story on it this afternoon?
    When I called your mobile I got a tine that suggested it had been cut off.
    Thank you!

    Kind regards,

    David Trayner

    Political reporter
    Southend Echo
    01702 321148
    07947 592529
    Twitter: @DavidTrayner

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