Sanctuary Housing criticised over empty homes in Ely

The four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a year

The four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a year - Credit: Contributed

Sanctuary Housing says “contractor availability and supply chain delays” are partly to blame for houses in Ely remaining empty.  

The housing association was responding to the Ely Standard after a reader questioned why at least four houses in the New Barns area have been empty for at least a year.  

Bek Genery, a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, owns her house in New Barns but has been struck by the number of Sanctuary homes not being let out.  

One of the four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a yea

One of the four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a yea - Credit: Contributed

“Currently numbers 94, 96, 118 and 123 are empty,” she said. 

“I mention these numbers specifically as I pass them daily on my walk to my allotment on Deacons Lane. I am aware there are others.” 

She said the four homes have been empty for over a year.  

And she’s kept tab on the empty houses: 

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A small amount of maintenance was carried out on 94 and 96 at the point that the tenants moved out. Nothing since. 

94 and 96 were vacated due to damp according to the tenants.  

118 has an open upstairs window( again for over a year) and  

123 has a smashed and boarded window again for over a year. 

Bek said she contacted Sanctuary Housing on June 15 “as I had had enough of facing empty homes and walking past homeless people on my way to the marketplace. 

One of the four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a yea

One of the four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a year - Credit: Contributed

“And then having to listen to Michael Gove tell me that housing was a priority.” 

She said she asked Sanctuary “to confirm that they knew they were empty and to get back to me and tell me what the plan was about re letting them”. 

She later spoke to an operations manager at Sanctuary who said he “needed to look into it and would get back to me”. 

Bek said: “I have just had a very uninformative call with him. 

“He said the properties had been empty for a ‘little’ longer than they would like.   

“I asked him to confirm the dates to see if they matched mine.  He refused.  

“He said they didn't have to share. I asked if the reason that he wouldn't share was that it was embarrassing to the company given their role.  

“He repeated they had no reason to share. 

“He stated that the reason for the delay was a shortage of labour and materials due to the pandemic.” 

One of the four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a yea

One of the four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a yea - Credit: Contributed

Bek added: “I reminded him that that was a boat we were all in and that build seems to be going on elsewhere and supplies are available currently in both Jewson's and Travis Perkins in Ely.” 

She said there were no GDPR concerns here but he told her that they wouldn't share that information “as they had no reason to share it.  

“I said that I would make a Freedom of Information request and he informed me that housing associations are not bound by the act”.   

One of the four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a yea

One of the four houses in New Barns, Ely, which a resident says have been empty for at least a yea - Credit: Contributed

Bek said: “I then asked if he was not prepared to confirm my estimated dates then could he at least confirm where the properties were in the running order for repairs.  

He said he couldn't.  I said I didn't want a specific date, rather three months, six months? He just said no” 

She added: “I think I was supposed to be happy with this response and just go away. 

“I am not.  I walk past homeless people who spent the winter living in tents whilst houses stood empty.  

“Properties that did not have issues with damp until cladding was put on now have issues with damp.” 

A joint statement by East Cambridgeshire District Council and Sanctuary Housing was issued via the council’s communications team. 

“East Cambridgeshire District Council has a duty to provide affordable and suitable accommodation and as part of this commitment, we work closely with Sanctuary Housing, which is the main provider of social housing in our district. 

“While Sanctuary is responsible for ensuring any empty homes are turned around quickly and made available for use, issues being experienced across the country such as contractor availability and supply chain delays have slowed the maintenance programme. 

“Sanctuary remains committed to making empty properties available as soon as possible and are currently prioritising those homes that people are already waiting for to meet the most urgent need.” 

Meanwhile Bek has contacted MP Lucy Frazer with her concerns.  

And following her calls with Sanctuary she said workmen appeared to have been “dispatched” to the empty homes.  

“A crew of five grounds maintenance people have been dispatched to the numbered properties.  An attempt seems to be being made to tidy up the gardens (strimmers hedge cutters etc). 

“The team had been told that a complaint had been put in about the state of the gardens as an emergency.   

“They were called away from their job in Bury St Edmunds this morning.   

“My complaint was in no way related to the gardens...though in my first conversation with Sanctuary they did suggest to me that that might be what I was complaining about.  

“I did state that was completely ridiculous at the time.”