Empty house returned to use in Southend

An empty house in Westcliff, not yet returned to use

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I guess I ought to see it as a small victory for my campaigning, but the news that Southend Borough Council has at last issued an EDMO (Empty Dwelling Management Order) on an empty property in the town raises all sorts of questions.

First the laughter; I am delighted that a family home is being put back into circulation. This will be wonderful news for the family that is going to be housed in it, and I trust that this is the first of many homes brought back into circulation.

Now the tears; according to 2009 figures Southend has 2607 empty homes, of which 1375 have been empty for more than six months. I accept that there will be good reasons for some of these, but all of us will know of properties being left to rot for years. The total number of empty homes equates to 3.35% of all housing, and this number includes 202 council properties.

The relevant legislation was passed in 2004. So we have almost six years of inactivity which has witnessed growing housing lists, as well as contentious new developments. If Southend Council’s interim EDMO is the first in the eastern region then is neglect is not unique to Southend.

Doubtless the local Tory administration could point to Labour-run councils where the situation is worse. But this is not the point. I live in Southend, a town run by the Tories for almost all of my life. I want a better Southend, and when there is legislation that addresses a real need I want to know why all we have seen up till now is inactivity.

I hope to be able to read of more EDMOs issued and more homes brought back to life in the weeks and months ahead. This will be good news for both the homeless, and for those battling unwanted development.

Empty homes in Castle Point, and the Tories are content to do nothing

A concerned resident has recently passed to me a copy of a Freedom of Information Request that they placed with Castle Point Borough Council in the summer (which with the current weather seems a long, long time ago).

The request was in respect of empty properties, a subject that I have previously campaigned on. In my view there are far too many, especially as the Government has given local authorities wide ranging powers to deal with these.

We know that there are 1500 people on the council housing list in Castle Point, and that this is likely the tip of the iceberg as regards to need.

The request elicited that there were 347 properties defined as being long term empty. Long term is defined as over six months without occupation. The request also unearthed that there had been zero (0) Empty Dwelling Management Orders issued.

The Housing Act 2004 provided a new discretionary power for local authorities to take over the management of long-term privately owned empty homes by these EDMOs.

I was not expecting miracles, but neither was I expecting inactivity when it came to dealing with empty properties in the borough. I think this clearly demonstrates just how out of touch the local Conservative administration is. When faced with a large waiting list their response is to do as little as possible about it. This is not good enough.

I am determined to keep pushing this issue until I see evidence that those in charge at Kiln Road take housing need seriously.