£2 million contracts let to remedy damp Council homes in York

 Contracts have been let to ENGI Regeneration Ltd and G Sanders Builder Ltd

The contract is to carry out remedial works to CYC housing stock that has been identified as having major structural damp problems.

Rising damp

The works will include remediation of the structural damp, and will, in most of the properties also require a new kitchen, bathroom and electrical installation.

Sundry additional works will also be required.

The anticipated spend with these two contracts over the initial two year period of the contract is £1169k plus additional spend on void properties of approximately £800k over two years.

The two contractors above being awarded based on a combination of quality and price scores.

The Council says this is an ongoing programme to resolve significant issues in properties. They go on to confirm that the contract with the previous contractor was not extended due to a failure to deliver the agreed programme.

The suspension of the tenants choice modernisation programme was a source of friction between the tow coalition partners during the last administration.

Standing water has been an issue in a limited number https://stevegalloway.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/04/11/water-under-homes/ of properties. However those suffering from structural dampness problems are relatively small in number.

York council election manifestos compared

4. Housing and Health

There has been a small reduction in the Council housing stock in recent years. This is the resulted from the central government policy which saw discounts increased for “Right to Buy”.

In response the Council has started to build new Council houses and has announced ambitious – by recent standards – plans to build over 600 additional homes. It has also started to buy homes on the open market to add to the rented housing pool.

On homelessness, hyperbole rules in the manifestos. All, of course, will end it. While the numbers on the housing waiting list has been stable, the numbers of rough sleepers has fluctuated. Labour support the Manchester/Finland model (where keys to a home are given to rough sleepers without any behaviour, substance abuse or mental health treatment conditions (That’ll go down well with the neighbours)

meanwhile the coalition is building on sub-urban playing fields and has made little attempt to find replacement open spaces, sports facilities or parks. Partly as a result of this, the City has an obesity problem. Life expectancy in some poorer wards is now relatively low.

Hopefully the new Council will realise that the is more to creating a home than simply bricks and mortar.

NB: Only 1 of the 202 Council candidates – who have declared where they live – is a Council tenant.

York Council sold land to “Yorspace” without affordable homes conditions

A response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the Council DID NOT require, that the land it sold at Lowfields to the “Yorspace” commune, must be used to provide affordable housing.

The land was sold for £300,000 – approximately 50% below its open market value.

A smaller plot of land at the other end of the Lowfields school site is currently being marketed for offers over £400,000.

The discounted sale  decision was taken in private by a Council official.

The Council claims that they had an independent valuation made on the site. They don’t say on what basis they discounted the value.

They did, however, depend on  Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972 to dispose of the land at below market value. It was assumed – but not transparently recorded in the decision notice – that this was to facilitate the provision of more affordable housing.

This assumption was brought into question when a Council Housing Officer said, in response to Yorspace’s planning application to build 19 units on the 0.785 acre site, that the new homes could not be counted as “affordable”

The FOI response goes on to say, “This valuation was for a plot of land for community build housing with utility connections and a road to the edge of the site. Therefore, the price to be paid by Yorspace includes an allowance for infrastructure works. Yorspace will be paying for the construction of the car parking bays which are within their proposed red line ownership boundary”.

 “Any areas of road and parking will belong to Yorspace and it will be   their responsibility to maintain this. However, the public footpath in this area is likely to become adopted highway and therefore maintained by the council”.

Clearly there are “smoke and mirrors”  aspects to this transaction which will require the attention of the Auditors.

Another option for the Council would have been to develop the site itself to provide 19 more Council homes. The homes could then have been let direct to those on the housing waiting list. The Council has more freedom now to borrow to fund new Council homes.

NB. Despite some new builds, “Right to Buy” applications have seen the Council housing stock in York reduce from 7728 in 2016 to 7617 two years later.

Water under homes

York Council finally produces the figures

Over a year ago The Press published an article in which one of the City’s MPs criticised the Council for the backlog of work needed to reduce the amount of ponding under its properties.

We wondered at the time whether the figures quoted (200 affected homes) were the whole story.

 It seems not.

It has taken months of correspondence to get the facts including the scale of involvement by local MPs.

So, what is now clear?

At the time of the article there were 200 outstanding complaints about water ponding under Council houses.  A programme of work had been initiated in 2016 by the new coalition administration to deal with the issue. The previous Labour run Council didn’t have a programme of remedial works nor did they monitor complaints.

Tenants reported 9 instances of standing water problems in the 12 months ending March 2018.

It seems that local MPs were reporting about 2 ponding issues a year. They reported more issues with condensation (and overcrowding) but these were not connected to the standing water issue.

The number of properties affected by damp had fallen from 466 in 2013 to 176 by the end of March 2018.

We can conclude therefore that the Council does now have a programme aimed at dealing with standing water under homes. About 45 homes a year are having remedial works undertaken.

There are likely to be more properties with water standing in the foundations, at some times of the year,  but the occupiers may not be aware of the issue

The number of Council homes suffering from dampness has reduced significantly.

NB. Our FOI request for details of Councillor complaints about standing water was turned down on cost grounds (the Council don’t have a customer relationship management system which allows this information to be found easily)

Costs up on Council’s Ascot Way development plans

It looks like there are more problems ahead, as the York Council tries to let contracts to establish a new Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children (CEDC) and a major expansion of the Lincoln Court  independent living building.

A year ago, the Council said that it would need to invest £4.3 million in the CEDC. They later revised their budgets and agreed to borrow an additional £330,000 to fund the centre.

Centre of Excellence layout proposals

A £4.7 million contract was awarded in February to Sewell’s. It was said to cover work at both Windsor House and Lincoln Court.

Now papers released yesterday suggest that there may be a significant increase in the costs for the project. Officials are expected to make a case for extra investment at a meeting taking place on 18th June.  A note in the Councils Forward Programme says, “A value engineered exercise has been undertaken and further funds are required to ensure there is an adequate contingency. This needs to be done within this timeframe in order to meet the requirements of external health funding”.

The meeting will take place after the local elections in May so it is anyone’s guess what will now happen to the project.

A cost drift has also occurred on the Lincoln Court side of the project. Earlier this month officials admitted that the cost had soared from £1.9 million to £4.8 million.

The Lincoln Court project is still mired in controversy. The planning approval is being referred to the Secretary of State for consideration for calling in. The move stems from objections from local sports organisations and residents who want to see the existing all-weather play area moved to Thanet Road. The play area would be lost under the Council’s current proposals.

There are also concerns about access arrangements for the buildings both during building works and afterwards. A case has been made for a private (pedestrian) access to be made available to the adjacent school car park. So far, the Council has turned a blind eye to the suggestion, reinforcing concerns about traffic congestion and parking problems on Ascot Way

Both the CEDC and Lincoln Court modernisation have attracted widespread local support. It is a change that lack of attention to detail and poor consultation arrangements seem to be hindering progress.

Work starts in Clifton to create 33 new homes for older people

A new phase of the council’s Older Person’s Accommodation Programme is starting, with work beginning to deliver 33 new homes in Clifton.

The four new bungalows and 29 apartments will add to Marjorie Waite Court. This is a 40-unit, council-run independent living scheme with extra care offered at the heart of the community. This extension is due to open in winter 2020 along with a new community hall.

Residents of York have an above-UK-average life expectancy, with the number of 75+ residents expected to increase by 50% by 2030 (up from 17,000 to 26,000). This extra accommodation goes towards providing a sufficient variety of options for this growing population. It is also part of the council’s wider programme which aims to deliver over 900 extra new units of accommodation with care for older people by 2020 and will see over £100m new investment to deliver it.

Marjorie Waite Court’s 29 new apartments will be wheelchair-accessible and residents will benefit from extra care services. This includes providing 24-hour care for residents and those living with dementia.

The four bungalows will be built with their own parking space. Like the apartments, they will be wheelchair-accessible and be connected to a warden call system.

The residents of these new and existing apartments will be able to use refurbished and extended communal facilities. These will include a dining facility, a laundry, lounges on all floors with balconies, a hair salon and treatment room, and extra offices to deliver a wider range of services. While to support residents’ mobility an electric buggy store and charging area will be built.

Local community groups can also, through a booking scheme, use the new community hall which will provide space for community and leisure activities.

New Homeshare service bringing younger and older people together for mutual benefit

An innovative new service that matches older homeowners with younger people in a home-sharing arrangement is coming to York.

Homeshare York is based on a national model, where a younger person provides 10 hours of support a week to an older householder in exchange for a room in their home. Homesharers could help with practical tasks, such as cleaning, shopping or cooking, as well as provide companionship and a reassuring overnight presence.

Homeshare is all about mutual benefit. The service enables older people to continue living independently with the support and companionship of a sharer. It also provides young professionals, or mature and postgraduate students struggling with rental costs, affordable accommodation in the city.

Similar services around the UK and internationally report significant benefits linked with intergenerational friendships arising from Homeshare matches. Participants have felt less isolated, experienced an increased sense of wellbeing and shared learning, too.

Homeshare York is a not-for-profit service with a monthly contribution made by the householder and homesharer to cover the cost of the matching process and ongoing support.

It offers a viable, cost-saving option for younger and older members of the community as the fees are considerably less than the equivalent cost of support (for the householder) or rental costs (for the homesharer).

To find out more or to see if you, or someone you know, could be eligible please visitwww.york.gov.uk/HomeshareYork or email homeshareyork@york.gov.uk

Lincoln Court update

The Councils Executive discussed the planned extension of the Lincoln Court independent living building yesterday. They agreed to progress the scheme and included a requirement for an alternative all weather games area to be provided in the ward.

It will be up to the planning committee at its meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) to include a condition requiring that the new facility is provided before the existing MUGA is demolished.

Windsor House is already being vandalised

It emerged at the meeting that 14 of the remaining 19 tenants have now accepted offers of alternative accommodation. When the remaining 5 will be offered, and accept, a suitable alternative remains in doubt. The adjacent Windsor House building, which is empty, is already suffering vandalism and there is a concern that the whole site could become a magnet for anti social behaviour.

Large delivery lorries are ruining roads in Lowfields. Similar concerns about Ascot Way

The Council is negotiating with the school to allow builders plant to access the site from the school side. There have been major problems getting large items of plant into the Lowfields site where roads are of a similar width to Ascot Way.

It has yet to be confirmed whether an (pedestrian) access will be retained from the school site when the redevelopment has been completed. This is considered to be essential to provide overflow parking capacity given that only 16 spaces are being provided on the Ascot Way frontage.

Large plant on Lowfields site. Working hours planning condition being breached?

Sadly members of the executive failed to probe why the new apartments have been described, in successive Planning Committee reports, as “extra care” units.

No doubt residents will get more clarification tomorrow

York Central moves another step closer with £37.32m funding decision

York Central has moved a step closer as £37.32m of external funding was promised to deliver the new generation of homes and higher paid jobs York needs and to improve the railway station.

The funding was confirmed yesterday (Wednesday 13 March) from the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund and Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

The funding will contribute to a new western access road, bridge and spine road into York Central, a fully accessible western entry into the railway station and the station frontage scheme which will bring a transformation of transport interchange facilities, enhanced accessibility and new public realm at the front of York station.

The scheme will support the delivery of up to 2,500 new homes and over 6,000 new jobs.

£23.5m of this funding will contribute to the £155m infrastructure funding package for York Central with a further £11.7m towards the costs of transforming the front of the station.  Together the two schemes will open up the 72 hectare York Central site which is surrounded by railway lines, and create vibrant and distinctive residential neighbourhoods, cultural spaces, and a high-quality commercial quarter at the heart of York.

The plans for the front of the station will demolish Queen St Bridge, improve the public spaces and improve the transport interchange to create a greatly improved fitting gateway to the city.  This funding is conditional upon the award of Housing Infrastructure Funding later this month and on the award of Planning permission.

The West Yorkshire Transport Fund money follows the £35m budget agreed by City of York Council in December. This will then be repaid using retained business rates from the York Central Enterprise Zone. The council’s £77m bid for the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund is at an advanced stage, with a decision expected soon.

The outline planning application for the site will be considered by the council’s planning committee on Monday 25 March 2019.

Empty Chapelfields garage to be brought back into use after 12 month delay

Bramham Road empty garage

It looks like the long term empty garage in Bramham Road may finally be brought back into use.

It was reported as being empty and in need of repair over 12 months ago. Following a complaint about delays, repairs to the roof and stonework were completed.

The Council says that an order was placed with a local contractor to replace the door but the work was never completed.

It seems that no one followed this up until we reported the garage again a few months ago.

We’re now told that a new order for the door has been given to a contractor. It is expected to be repaired shortly and brought back into use in April.

There is a long waiting list of tenants in Chapelfields wanting to rent Council garages.

Nearby streets are sometimes choked with parked cars and there have also been ongoing delays in the provision of additional parking laybys on the estate.