Written evidence submitted by Harlow Defend Council Housing [RSH 012]
Today I am giving evidence On the Permitted developments in Harlow. What started back in 2015 was legislation that would allow The Conversion of Office blocks to be converted into Housing. This legislation has been abused By Many housing providers particularly By Caridon Housing. There are 13 permitted development sites in Harlow. The Converted rooms mostly are 3.5 X 5 meters. Research by University College London & Liverpool University Showed only 22% were within National living Standards. These conversions were allowed to be developed with no local planning permission.
The immediate impact on local services was horrendous .1000s of tenants & families were moved very quickly From London and other locations causing gentrification in Havering Barking Enfield and School places had to found with no extra teachers Harlow is still struggling to cope. Already full doctors’ surgeries had to find placements and Doctors. Little chance of Employment Harlow is a high unemployment area. With these developments now used for substandard homes the opportunity for future job growth is taken away as the buildings in town and on the industrial estates cannot be used.
The tenants were removed from their Family’s and support networks. They were told they would only be there for 2 yrs many are still there 3 yrs later with no prospect of moving for several years yet.
Caridon Charge £700 a month for this accommodation and is the biggest receiver of Universal credit housing Benefit in England. Harlow Council would charge around £400 a month for a 2-bed house. we spend £Bs in Benefits It would be more Prudent to build council homes.
In 2020 over 3 million claimants. are receiving Housing benefits at £130 a week for private rent and £100 a week for social rent .The total figure is not available as many transfer to universal credit.
Nearly all the Caridon tenants were previously in rent arrears and are now placed in the exact situation they came from.
Now to the actual living conditions of tenants of whom |I have spoken to on many occasions.
As described. The rooms are tiny and hazardous. The Kitchens and toilets are only a yard away from bedding. Indeed, mattresses are put in narrow corridors causing obstruction and a fire hazard
Mattresses are moved to give children a little space to play. Small children’s development is stunted to learn to walk. Older children Have no room to do homework. I have been told children have Nightmares due to other tenants fighting in corridors. And excess noise and lack of sleep effects their learning at school. The local police calls to the Developments are great. With some of the tenants having addiction & Mental health issues all placed in close proximities of the parents of young families are telling me they are now suffering depression and are at the end of their tether.
One tenant told me he had just recovered Drug addiction and was moved here with no help. He had a chance of work back in London.
They tell me they cannot afford to go to a doctor as it is across town (on the industrial estates there are no busses during mid-day times, the cost of a cab is high. Some have a 2 mile walk to school.
I was told by one woman she could not afford to visit her terminal ill mother in London as she was removed from her local support network, she could not find the fare back to London for herself and children.
Even our own MP Robert Halfon has described the developments as Ghettos.
This is intolerable in 2021. If ever there Was a case for Building 100k council homes a year it is now
This is a return to the 1800.