Key worker homes empty despite long waiting lists

Houses built as affordable homes for nurses and teachers are standing empty despite lengthy waiting lists, the government has admitted.

Yvette Cooper, housing minister, said in a written statement to the House of Commons that more than a third of the homes built as part of New Labour’s Key Worker Living scheme are standing empty despite 725m being poured into the project.

Rob Proctor, deputy chief executive of Kent Reliance, says: “I’m amazed there is this number of empty homes.

“The scheme we support is efficient. Approximately one-third of our cases are on shared ownership and they go through quickly. Everybody is keen to get a quick completion and our standard time is three to six weeks. I’m not sure what the problem can be.”

Some 802 of the 2,272 homes built in the capital and the South-East are uninhabited. The homes were built for key workers such as nurses, to help them live in areas where house prices are high.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Sarah Teather says: “This is a phenomenal waste of money. With house prices out of control, we could end up with a desperate shortage of teachers, policeman and nurses if we don’t help these key workers find homes.”

Proctor adds: “Whether the problem is that some lenders can’t process quickly enough or whether it’s to do with waiting lists or other housing associations I don’t know.

It’s nearly always first-time buyers looking for these properties and the process we have is a sleek operation whereby we can get an offer out in a few days. We only need proof of income and rental references.

“I know this scheme is only scratching the surface but it is important. I am surprised though, as there is a waiting list for these homes. Why aren’t people being moved in?”

The Financial Services Authority says that despite improvements by lenders, there are still significant failings by brokers relating to affordability and the suitability of the checks they carry out.