The Labour-led Southend Council administration has set up an acquisitions programme using £4.3mn of right-to-but receipts and capital surpluses to buy homes for allocation as social housing. The income from the rents will give a ‘revolving investment fund’, which will finance a range of other housing projects, including building brand new council homes and potentially buying more unoccupied properties. This programme is already underway and should see more families on the council’s waiting list getting a decent home by Christmas. Ian Gilbert, Leader of Southend Council, Says “Our new allocations policy makes people on low incomes struggling to afford rent eligible for a place on the housing list. It also offers a better chance for homeless people to get the support they need. In the past the council’s bidding process has been too complex and hard for vulnerable people to navigate. We are also looking to improve advice and support for people looking for housing”.
Cllr Gilbert added, “These are important steps to make sure our limited housing stock goes to those who need it the most. It gives people who are homeless and those who are struggling to afford the cost of housing a route to the support the need. For example, our new policy proposes to help rough sleepers and single homeless people by upgrading their priority, while also exploring the full range of potential housing options with them via personalised plans.We will also be supporting more people than ever before to move from supported housing into social housing once they are ready to live independently, which will in turn increase the supply of supported housing available to those in greatest need.”
People from outside Southend will only be able to register once they have lived or worked in the borough for three years, and people living in temporary accommodation will now remain on the waiting list rather than being dropped from it as was the case under the Conservative administration. A report on possible sites for the further building of council housing is being prepared for the September cabinet meeting.
In other housing-related updates, work on options for a landlord licensing scheme in Southend is already under way, with Cllr Gilbert noting “It is a long process and may well be subject to legal challenge, but there will be a report at September cabinet setting out progress so far and options going forward”. The ‘Better Queensway’ project is progressing, with an outline plan due in the autumn.