Southend Council has built just 25 homes in the past five years

While 1,500 people are struggling to find a home on the council’s housing wait list new government statistics have revealed that Southend Council built just 25 new homes in five years.

The few homes that were built between April 2014 and the end of March 2019 have been vastly outweighed by the 124 council properties sold off during the same period.

The data shows the majority of these properties were built during 2016 when 18 were completed but this quickly fell to five the following year and just one last year.

The council does have the option to try to boost its housing stock by purchasing private sector properties and converting them into social homes but they did this for just 11 properties over five years.

The data has been published as council leader Councillor Ian Gilbert has pledged to urgently address the problem.

Over the past six months the council has completed work on 15 new council homes on Rochford Road and committed to spending £5.3million on purchasing 22 extra properties from the private sector to bring them into use as council homes.

Of the 22, Mr Gilbert confirmed last month that 13 has already been purchased and he expected families to begin moving into them before Christmas.

Simon Leftley, deputy chief executive at the council, said: “Southend, like most towns and cities in the UK, has a higher number of families on the housing waiting list than the number of homes available within the council’s housing stock. We are also a densely populated urban area where space for new developments is difficult to find.

“This is why the building of new affordable homes is such a priority. In April 2019, 15 newly built council homes in Rochford Road were completed on an underused garage site.

“This followed 18 council homes built in Shoebury and a wheelchair accessible two-bedroom bungalow built in Audley’s Close. We are currently working on the next two phases of this project, which will deliver yet more council houses.”

Mr Leftley added that by the end of March 2020, they will have added at least 50 new council homes – more than double than in the entire five year period.

Additionally, the council is exploring ways that unused garage sites can be converted into new council properties.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “A child becomes homeless in Britain every eight minutes – this is a national emergency. Simply put, you cannot solve homelessness without building homes people can actually afford to live in. And yet successive governments have failed to do just that – leaving millions trapped in expensive and unstable private renting.

“But it doesn’t have to stay this way. Whoever forms the next government can turn the tide on this crisis by investing in a new generation of secure social homes.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter