New homes completed in York for downsizing tenants

York’s housing stock has had a boost with eight tenant households looking forward to moving into newly completed council homes.

The two-bedroomed apartments at Fenwick Street off Bishopthorpe Road have been built for tenants looking to downsize to more manageable homes. The aim is to free much-needed, larger council houses for growing families.

Work started at Fenwick Street in spring 2016 by contractor ESH Property Services. The eight flats have been built so that they can be adapted to meet tenants’ changing needs as they age. One has already been modified to meet a new tenant’s requirements.

All will achieve high levels of fuel efficiency through insulation and the highly-efficient heating systems.

Martin Farran, director of adult social care and housing at City of York Council, said: “We have constructed high quality properties to benefit present and future tenants. Not only can they be altered to meet a tenant’s changing circumstances, but the build has created local jobs and important new assets for the city.”

John Doherty, Contracts Manager from ESH Property Services, said: “We are proud of the product the team has delivered and, in particular, the quality of finish achieved. The aspect and views to the rear of the properties are particularly pleasing features and will ensure that these properties remain highly desirable and sustainable for the council moving forward.”

Long time coming but finally York Council set to buy empty homes to ease housing problems

We’ve told the York Council on many occasions over the last seven years that it should use some of the profit on its housing account to buy empty properties on the open market.

Today it seems that action is imminent.

In a media release the Council says,

 “A request for £2.76 million to match-fund a grant allocation to create 65 shared ownership homes will be made to City of York Council’s executive on 18 May.

The funding is being requested from the council’s Housing Revenue Account capital to match grant funding of £2.76m from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

The bid to the HCA was made in September 2016 to support the delivery of the homes between 2017 and 2020. With an average grant rate of £42,500 per home, the programme aims to help address the affordable housing needs of the city.

Pending the executive’s decision, the 65 homes – depending on market values – will be bought from the open market and/or from new-build residential developments.

The shared ownership scheme aims to help people in housing need but who cannot afford to buy a home on the open market. Under a shared ownership lease the leaseholder buys a share of the property and pays rent on the remainder owned by the landlord, City of York Council.

Martin Farran, City of York Council’s director of adult social care and housing, said: “Through this scheme, we aim to offer more affordable housing options to people in York who can’t afford to buy, without help, from the open market. It will also increase our interest in housing stock across the city to benefit future generations of shared owners”.

The news comes on the same day as the Council confirmed that there are still 1000 people on the waiting list homes in the York area. Most are seeking a different sized property to rent.

It is unclear how many of them will be able to participate in a shared ownership arrangement.

This is how much it will cost you to take advantage of this scheme

York Council making good progress with re-roofing works at blocks of flats

The Council re-roofing contractors are making good progress on the blocks of flats in St Stephens Road area.The blocks in that road are scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

The programme will then  move into Thoresby Road and The Reeves with work there scheduled to finish at the end of July.

The programme will then move on to High Moor Road, Wains Road, Thanet Road and Dringfield Close before moving on towards the City centre. The programme is scheduled to be completed by the end of November.

‘Take control of your money’ urges new York partnership

York residents can take control of their money for free ahead of changes to benefit payments in the summer, thanks to City of York Council teaming up with South Yorkshire Credit Union Ltd.

Council tenants, private tenants or mortgage holders are welcome to take advantage of the scheme which aims to help people budget, pay essential bills and manage any type of debt or multiple debts.

No-one using the services needs to be an existing customer of the credit union, but is encouraged to open a savings account with a minimum £1 balance to help manage their income and outgoings and so avoid any unnecessary debt.

Anyone wanting help to repay debt will be given tailored advice which could include consolidating any repayments into a single, more manageable account at a lower, fixed interest rate, rather than having to resort to unregulated lenders or loan sharks.

With changes to Universal Credit payments due from July 2017, new applicants could face a delay in payments for six to eight weeks. This new service will help prepare for any predicted shortfalls in income and ensure every day necessities like fuel, mortgage or rent payments are paid for regularly.

The scheme is already tried and trusted by a number of social landlords in the region and some City of York Council tenants are using it too.

The credit union operates on co-operative principles and offers savings and loan products authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority.

Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member with responsibility for financial inclusion at City of York Council, said: “This is a really worthwhile service to residents to help them regain or maintain control of their finances and give access to safer and regulated loans – a much better alternative to doorstep lenders.”
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Parking problems escalate but Council finally getting empty garages back into use

Residents have complained about the slow progress being made in providing parking lay-bys on some estates in west York. As reported yesterday, the Westfield Ward improvement programme is running nearly 12 months behind scheduled.

One problem area is Dijon Avenue where – because of the estate layout – only carriageway parking is possible for some properties. That space has now run out.

Dijon Avenue is one of the roads due to get an additional parking bay this year (near the amenity area)

Better news, though, on bringing empty garages back into use .

As we reported in February large numbers of Council owned garages in west York were empty.

Some had been unused for over 5 years.

Following work by LibDem Councillor Keith Aspden, the Council agreed to implement repairs where these had been the cause of the voids.

Work was ordered for garages in Bachelor Hill, Marston Ave., TheWandel/Chapelfields Rd., Wains Rd., Sowerby Rd. & Woodlea Ave., Most of these repairs – mainly to doors and brickwork – have now been completed and the garages have either been let or are under offer.

A large number of garages are, however, due to be demolished. This will exacerbate problems particularly in the Windsor Garth area.

Residents will expect the Council to invest in alternative off street parking before any demolition takes place. 

The Council has promised to provide up to date details of vacancies on its web site, to advertise voids on local noticeboards and to engage ward Councillors in re-letting campaigns.

That represents progress, but it remains a concern that it took so long to re-let garages.
One consequence was a loss a loss of around £22,000 a year in rent income.

The current position on vacancies is shown below

 

 

£224k funding boost for York Central

York Central

City of York Council has been awarded £224,000 to help accelerate the development of York Central – a 72 hectare site situated in the heart of the city.

This was the maximum amount of funding the council could be awarded from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which will help speed up the delivery on York’s largest brownfield site.

The fund is part of a £16.5m pot of money called the ‘capacity funding’, which will support house building by providing extra resources to resolve planning issues and other delays.

 

The council applied for the funding in November 2016, with the Homes and Communities Agency receiving 180 bids. Of those, 98 English local authorities successfully received funding.

It is hoped the cash could aid the building of up to 800,000 new homes on sites of 1,500-plus units and in priority Housing Zones across England. York Central was allocated a Housing Zone in 2015.

To find out more about York Central, visit www.york.gov.uk/yorkcentral

Background information:

York Central is  a collaborative development partnership which includes City of York Council, Network Rail, the National Railway Museum and the Homes and Communities Agency to progress investment and delivery for the site.

The site has been designated a Housing Zone as well as an Enterprise Zone and public investment is planned to deliver key infrastructure with a view to de-risk and accelerate this project.

York Council updates list of empty garages available to rent

The York Council has updated its list of empty garages. It is still not proactively marketing them through local noticeboards and newsletters though.

Some longstanding empty garages in places like The Wandle and Bachelor Hill have disappeared from the list.

The Council has also updated its Westfield Ward news page.

 

 

York Council develops colour blindness

Promise to tell the truth?

The Council has published a report which contains a blatantly misleading statement. In an attempt to justify the development of former school playing fields at various sites in the City, it claims that these are “brownfield” land.

Playing fields are classified as greenfield sites, although they do not necessarily form part of the Green Belt. (The former built footprint of the school sites could be regarded as “brownfield”. In the case of Lowfields this is around 50% of the total site area).

Sites like Lowfields – where the proposed development of the playing field has attracted a lot of opposition – have not yet even been subject to the public examination which will only start when a draft Local Plan is finally agreed for the City.

The Council is therefore being asked to spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers money on architects and professional fees on projects which may never get off the drawing board.

Council owned sites proposed for early development

Nor has there been any discussion with residents about the future of sites like the Askham Bar car park (former park and ride site) on Moor Lane.

Ironically the Council has, once again, chosen to ignore the vacant – and derelict – brownfield land behind Acomb Library. Sites like these could be developed quickly with one Front Street option being to provide more accommodation for the library and public services on the ground floor with flats being built above.

The site is ideally located to accommodate older people who the Council identifies will generate by far the largest growth in housing demand over the next 20 years.

Nor does it appear keen to exploit the opportunities available to purchase additional Council houses on the open market – the quickest way of supplementing social housing stocks in the City.

The report proposes a complex partnership arrangement with the central government Homes and Communities Agency. It seems that the Council leadership see themselves as developers with the aspiration to provide a mixture of house prices and tenures on individual sites.

Doing so, without an agreed strategic plan in place, represents a high risk option.

Council housing account surplus in York set to balloon to £21.5 million

The York Council’s Council housing account is set to have a surplus of £21.5 million by the end of March. The housing business plan had shown a planned surplus of £16.6 million at March 2016.

The change partly comes from higher rent income following changes to government rules. Some rents increased by 1% this year while the government have kicked into touch plans to make authorities sell off higher value properties when they became empty.

The York Council is still going through the motions of consulting on transferring its housing stock into the management of a third party. The justification for this move was never strong but, in the light of the recent financial performance of the housing revenue account, is now a waste of time and resources.

The main criticism of the housing department is their insensitivity to maintenance issues particularly when dealing with open spaces and garage areas. They have also failed to keep up with the demand for off street parking facilities.  Too often garages remain vacant for excessive periods despite high demand levels.

Hopefully some of the unexpected “profit” on the housing account will allow them to address these concerns.

Use of the suplus would also allow for a “quick fix” for some of the 1600 residents on the housing waiting list if properties were bought on the open market and used to supplement existing stocks.

Oakhaven redevelopment – contractor announced

The Council has announced that Ashley House PLC will develop and operate an Extra Care elderly persons facility which will be built on the Oakhaven site on Acomb Road.

Ashley House generally get good inspection reports for their homes.

The deal – agreed at a behind closed doors decision session – also secures for the Council nomination rights to affordable and discount sale apartments for the next  80 years.

There will be 48 one bedroomed and 8 two bedroomed homes provided on the site

Of these

Oakhaven

  • 20 will be for affordable rent,
  • 5 shared ownership,
  • 15 at market rent and
  • 16 outright sale.

The development will include a lounge, cafe/restaurant, buggy store and staff rooms plus 16 car park spaces.

The one bedroomed properties will be rented for £241 a week and the 2 bedroomed properties for £266. The target sale price for the properties is between £165000 and £195,000.

The developer will pay the Council £150,000 for the land.

If the adjacent Police station becomes available, the developer say he will provide an additional 14 apartments on that part of the site.

Further details can be found by clicking here

Carlton Tavern

Coincidentally, the owners of the nearby Carlton Tavern public house have today announced its closure. They are understood to have sold the site to “Crown Care” who will develop a similar care facility.

The Oakhaven proposals are tied up with controversial plans to develop the Lowfields school site.

At Lowfields, government officials have said that they may not be able to intervene to stop the sale and development of the playing fields “if they have not been used for over 10 years”.

York Council officials claim that Lowfields/High School pupils last used the  sports field in September 1997. In reality it was much later than that.

Meanwhile there is considerable confusion about whether the North Yorkshire police can afford to move their Acomb Police Station onto the Lowfields site, while the NHS has confirmed that no funding has been made available for the promised health centre which was also to have been built there.

A communal housing group has meanwhile announced two “public meetings” to discuss their plans for a small section of the Lowfields Site. Yorspace was allocated a site near little Tudor Road by the Councils Executive although the financial terms of any deal are not yet known. Their allocated site is not on the school playing field as such, although they apparently lobbied for the whole of the school campus to be developed (bringing them into potential conflict with the “Save Lowfields Playing Field” action group which was formed in the autumn) .

The meetings are being held on:

  • 11 March – Foxwood Community Centre, Cranfield Pl, York YO24 3HY, 3pm 
  • 15 March – Chill Cafe, 8a Front St, Acomb, York YO24 3BJ, 7pm