Still more than two thousand long-term empty homes in Southend-on-Sea

The empty homes numbers for Southend-on-Sea provide enlightening reading.

The current tally is 2277 (, which whilst the lowest figure for eleven years is still high enough, for instance, to solve the “where do we house the refugees” question.

This number is for what is described as ‘long-term’ empty homes – this does not include those properties temporarily vacant (between lettings, for instance), and whilst some will be unsuitable for immediate re-use, many will be able to help solve part of the local housing crisis.

Local authorities do have powers to put these homes back into circulation, and whilst it is not always straightforward, it is made simpler if the will is there. Councils can compulsory purchase, take over land, enforce sale, require that a property be made safe, as well as issue empty dwelling management orders.

I have highlighted the issue of empty properties in Southend-on-Sea on a number of occasions, and in a time of unaffordable housing this is a situation that causes me much regret. This regret is enhanced when one considers the plight of the homeless and those fleeing persecution and death.

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?

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.

Empty homes in south Essex

Some interesting figures from the Empty Homes Agency website .

These two tables show the empty homes by local authority for the years 2007 and 2008 in south Essex.

2008 Total empty homes Percentage of empty homes Private homes more than 6 months empty
Basildon 1024 1.39% 422
Brentwood 513 1.64% 219
Castle Point 1014 2.76% 649
Chelmsford 1697 2.43% 759
Maldon 860 3.24% 460
Rochford 896 2.62% 492
Southend-on-Sea 2620 3.46% 1391
Thurrock 1800 2.83% 679

2007 Total empty homes Percentage of empty homes Private homes more than 6 months empty
Basildon 774 1.06% 375
Brentwood 566 1.83% 261
Castle Point 1092 2.98% 693
Chelmsford 1614 2.34% 528
Maldon 784 2.98% 397
Rochford 950 2.79% 405
Southend-on-Sea 2532 3.28% 1463
Thurrock 1754 2.77% 1072

These figures raise a whole lot of questions about house-building, housing lists, homelessness, urban regeneration, vandalism, vermin, etc.