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Jan 30 2014

Council Housing Shortage? What Housing Shortage?

harrow_council_logoHarrow Council are selling off (at least) one of their properties by auction very shortly.

With a guide price of just £250,000, 51 The Gardens is located off Pinner Road (A404) which in turn runs into Greenhill Way. The property itself is situated on the west side of The Gardens, at the road’s junction with Blenheim Road.

The blurb continues, “Local shops and amenities including West Harrow Underground Station (Metropolitan Line) are available with the more extensive shopping facilities of St Ann’s Shopping Centre also being within reach.”

Further details here.

As we said, what housing shortage? If Harrow’s flogging off spare house for £250k, when the typical asking price for property in that postcode is £370k – some £120,000 more – something must be wrong somewhere…

Thanks to Bazza for the tip off.

 

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  1. Cllr Krishna James

    I did wonder about the property prizes especially when I saw that 76 Marlborough Hill a much needed community resource for people with long enduring mental illness listed as the one to be sold off. It is in my ward of Marlborough and I discussed argued and begged my then labour comrades not to close the resource that was much in demand. The sum then mentioned was a saving of £250,000. In my capacity as portfolio holder for 4 months I did try to keep this community resource even if it meant to change it to a much needed wellbeing center. Alas Independent I am afraid labour group were ousted by vested interests in both Labour and Conservative. The dark forces got together and I am afraid the mental health community lost out once again. At a time of increased need for mental health provision, Harrow is loosing out a much loved resource by the most vulnerable in our community. Mental health community has been shortchanged in Harrow despite the political fairy stories the public is told. I was told by the then commissioner for the NHS that in the proposed changes in the NHS Mental Health would loose out. I see this happening both in Harrow and Barnett and Brent, where a lot of my family and friends live. Mental Health Beds have been lost, the Mental Health Community is running from pillar to post. The care providers who meet the patients via the so called ‘crises resolution home treatment teams’ which is cut to the bare bones are at a loss. The managers are earning good salaries and need to be reduced are driving the changes in self interest. Those of us who live in glass houses and who have lost dear ones to mental illness know this is pure self interest in the guise of community care. Who is left holding the patients in need the families at home, money is being saved on the in patient beds when they are most needed. I was the chairman of the Health Scrutiny Committee and and pleaded time and again at NW London Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee that The Case For a Healthy Future for NW London was not sound. I am afraid there was a lot of pressure from the inner London Burroughs who on paper will show they were fair to Harrow and Brent, they were anything but fair. I have worked in the NHS for 15years, I have within the family two consultants one GP and two highly motivated and caring sisters who happen to be nurses. Most people would agree I speak from a position of some knowledge. I am afraid despite several attempts to contribute at a high level I was held back when I first became a Councillor and only became a chair of Health Scrutiny when the last chair had to resign due to conflict of interest and we all know the rest of the story. It has been due to very much needed support given by my colleague Councillor Nana Asante that I was able to take the helm of the Health Scrutiny Committee and see the truth unfolding of A & E Closures, selling off of NHS land and wasting of £3 billion to bring about changes which are not needed. The mental health community is certainly worse off now. I have residents calling me in desperation of treatment and support, many have been discharged against the wishes of their psychiatrists and have nowhere to turn. The mental Health Community in Harrow is supporting each other to survive. Many people have mentioned if there is a plan to reduce numbers of mental health service users by any means possible. Lots of platitudes will be given from every corner when questions are asked about the service and also that change is needed. I for one think there are many innovative ways of bringing about change and in the process improve lives rather then the sheer misery being given out the most vulnerable in our society by the most powerful.

  2. Cllr Krishna James

    I do hope you are brave enough to publish this Paul. This is the everyday reality of some of our lives!!!!!

  3. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    Paul-nothing is wrong anywhere and you need to tell Bazza to be more accurate with the address details of his tip-off. This is the old derelict caretaker’s house in Vaughn School! Had the Council spent the £150k it needs spending on it you would have quite rightly screamed “Council wastes money on refurbishing derelict Caretaker’s house when Caretaker does not live in!”. This was a Labour proposal, carried out by the Tories, to the delight of the Officers, coz nobody wants to waste money at Harrow Council. So instead of spending £150k we make £250k +!

    One trusts that this explains, and sorry if you thought it was one of those lovely large houses in The Gardens, coz that ain’t quite the whole truth!!

    1. Bazza

      Dear Cllr Stoodley
      If you go to the link below. You will see I know exactly where the property is
      http://www.auction.co.uk/residential/LotDetails.asp?A=875&MP=24&ID=875000001&S=L&O=A
      You will see there is no mention of dereliction, and even if it does need £150k to do it up, I bet some property developer will buy it do it up get planning permission to extent to the right possibly build another house on the side as the site is nearly three quarters of an acre,
      The land alone is probably worth £250,000! Being next to a school and so near the underground station. It is very short sighted of Harrow Council to sell its assets for a quick fix. I thought Harrow Council were desperate for three bedroom houses?

      Bazza

  4. Harrow Dude

    It is no secret fact that the planned big council sell-off of buildings has not been the cash cow that was expected so I’m not really surprised at the discount price but this is just a guide price. The final auction price will be vastly different and Susie needs the cash to deliver the goods.

  5. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    Bazza-that link goes to the auction house-got anything on the property? In the 60s & 70s it was normal for schools to have a caretaker living on site but they don’t do it that way anymore and the premises have fallen into disrepair through lack of use. So what you seem to be requesting Bazza is that the Council pays for this house to be made fit to live in with taxpayer’s money that it doesn’t have in order to house a homeless family on school premises without a CRB check because selling said property in said delapidated condition and thus releasing over a quarter of a million quid is a “waste of money”?!!

    Well ok Bazza if that’s how you feel then why don’t you table a public question to Cllr Steve Wright for the next Cabinet meeting? Why don’t you?!

    I’ve answered your question; but will you answer mine? I wonder Bazza; I just wonder?!!

    1. Bazza

      Cllr Stoodley you said in your last post “it was normal for schools to have a caretaker living on site but they don’t do it that way anymore and the premises have fallen into disrepair through lack of use.” That house was occupied by the school caretaker Mr. Kelly up until November 2013!
      NO Cllr Stioodley What I am saying is there is more than one way to do things, what you and the Council are doing is selling off assets for a quick buck, what I was thinking is, the property has room to expand so why not get in touch with a developer or a builder and say (off the top of my head) something like you fix up the derelict house and you can build another on the side which he can then sell or rent!!
      This way Harrow Council Pays nothing, keeps a three bedroom house helping the waiting list and which will generate a rent for years and years to come,
      As I said that’s off the top of my head but I bet someone with a good business mind in the council could make something like that work.

  6. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    Also Bazza if the land alone is worth £250k and the house is derelict then all the sums are correct if you suspect it will be bought by a developer, whi presumably will apply for planning permission to build several properties on that site, thus increasing available housing to the community.

  7. Bazza

    Wow I just seem the building Cllr Krishna James is talking about,

    http://www.auction.co.uk/residential/LotDetails.asp?A=875&MP=24&ID=875000026&S=L&O=A

    Look at the size of it There again can’t some deal be done with developers to come up with more houses for Harrow council, someone is going to get a lots of money when that place is redeveloped!
    Again off the top of my head sell the patch of land at the back and use the money to turn the building into one or two bedroom flats, it looks big enough for Five or six maybe, again keeping our assets and helping the waiting list,
    But if we are to think like Cllr Stoodley sell the lot to a developer who as Cllr Stoodley says will build a load of flats on the ground at the back, turn the house into flats which he will then probably rent back to Harrow Council at Exorbitant rents because Harrow is so short of accommodations, soon getting back the £1m or so they paid,
    let’s say the developer turns Just the house (but don’t forget the big plot of land at the back) into just 6 1 bedroom flats the rent in today’s market on these would be in the region of £800 to £900 a month each, at £800 a month on just 6 flats you will get nearly £3million in just five years
    Surely someone at the civic centre has the insight to see these things and not be so quick to sell off our assets, I just think Harrow Council because of all the cutbacks that have to be made are just a little short-sighted, in the future we may need the income from our assets to survive when the economy picks up again.

    1. At £800/month for six flats, over five years, you’d get: £288k. At a more realistic rate of £1000/month for the same number, you’d get £360k. But of course, it’s not a five-year payback. Think you need to return your calculator and get a new one, Bazza!

      But yes, you’re probably right: were this to be bought, flattened, pigeon-hole flats built, and then rented back to the council as exorbitant rates, the long-term outcome does look rather bleak…

  8. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    The Council doesn’t “rent back” – it gets money and properties through the Community Infrastructure Levy and s106 Agreements. Bazza – do yourself a favour, nip up to the third floor and ask the Planning Dept. for a s106 seminar because you clearly have absolutely no idea how this works, bless you!

    & despite what you say I made no comment on what Krishna said.

  9. Linda Robinson

    Some councils in other parts of the country are much more imaginative about run-down properties like this unloved caretaker’s house. For example, they might identify families in overcrowded homes who are on the waiting list for bigger properties to become available, and offer them the chance to move into this three bedroom house like this that needs a bit of work doing, provided that they do the work themselves to an agreed standard. Or they might encourage a community group to get involved with transforming a substandard property into something new, in return for a discounted rent or a change of use.

    After all, it can’t be in that much disrepair if it was occupied until November last year. With a bit of creative thinking, a home like this could save thousands of pounds from going into the pockets of greedy bed & breakfast providers while waiting lists grow. And, best of all, the land would still belong to the people of Harrow.

    But, no, Harrow seems always to have a very one track way of thinking – sell off everything we’ve got as quickly as possible and get whatever we can from developers. Meanwhile, Harrow Housing is looking for “hidden homes” to convert from garages etc. (http://www.iharrow.com/council/harrow-being-short-changed-on-housing-say-labour/). Why not make better use of the empty homes we’ve already got? It’s a no brainer. I understand Willy’s comments about CRB checks and Section 106 agreements, but they are just red herrings in this context.

    As for 76 Marlborough Hill… don’t get me started!

    1. Bazza

      Well said Linda,
      as I said in my previous post ” Surely someone at the civic centre has the insight to see these things and not be so quick to sell off our assets” is there no Councillors out there with the imagination to sort out this sell off? did you know Harrow Council has not built one new home in the past 10 years.

      taken from a FOI reply

      “As detailed in the email I sent to you on the 30th April 2013 Harrow Borough Council has not built any new council homes during the last 10 years. Your recent email to me stated that this information was sufficient to fully answer your initial request.

      Alison Pegg – Housing Partnerships & Strategy Manager

      Harrow council
      will soon have no assets at all

  10. Linda Robinson

    I think you’ll find it’s very much longer than ten years since Harrow Council built any new council homes Bazza. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I expect it’s more like forty years.

    There are one or two competent, conscientious people in Harrow’s Housing Department. However, because the borough’s stock is one of the smallest of any local authority anywhere in the country, council housing and meaningful engagement with its tenants are very low priority. I work with a lot of other councils’ housing departments, and I can tell you I have never seen anything so neglectful as Harrow’s tenant involvement efforts. If they were better at building tenant and leaseholder relationships and groups, then perhaps they’d also have a better chance of identifying and combating tenancy fraud, which in my experience isn’t tackled even when reported (http://www.iharrow.com/council/the-cost-of-fraud-to-harrows-council-tax-payers-revealed/#comment-2156).

  11. Susan Hall

    Linda, if you know of any tenancy fraud or anyone reading this does then please let me know on susanmaryhall|@gmail.com and I will make sure it is investigated and that all information remains anonymous. I was with the fraud team and Police from 7am on Wednesday morning when three homes were visited, thee results of which will be published when appropriate. The Fraud team with the housing team are working flat out to try and put a stop to this kind of thing and we are grateful to those that tip us off. Please be assured, I am determined to stop this sort of behaviour, its not a victimless crime as not only are taxpayers losers but so too are those poor family’s who are in bed and breakfast and deserve to be given a Council owned home.

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