170 York homes to get an extra HUG from new £1m funding

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City of York Council has been awarded a further £1 million of funding to improve the energy efficiency of homes in York, leading to lower fuel bills and improved comfort.

Some 60 private sector homes will receive extra cavity wall insulation, draft proofing, attic or loft insulation, while 110 council homes will benefit from additional energy efficiency measures.

To qualify for the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG), homeowners or private tenants need to have a household income of less than £30,000 per year and have a property with an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E, F or G. Some EPC D rates may be eligible.

Of the £1m, £550,000 will go towards improving council homes with additional energy efficiency measures and solar PV panels installed on roofs lowering electricity bills for tenants.

The remainder will be used to improve energy efficient in 60 private rented/owner occupier homes through the Home Upgrade Grant. This provides insulation grants for lower income home owners and private landlords with lower income tenants. They can apply for insulation for attic rooms, cavity walls and loft insulation, as well as draught proofing.

The funding has been secured from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Local Authority Delivery Funding. The project is being delivered in partnership with Better Homes Yorkshire, Eclipse Energy and Heat Insulation.

If you are a homeowner, private tenant or landlord, find out more about the scheme, to see if you’re eligible and to apply, please contact Better Homes Yorkshire on 0800 597 1500 or email betterhomes@york.gov.uk. More about energy efficient schemes is at www.york.gov.uk/HUG 

Time to get to grips with local issues

The easing of lockdown restrictions offers the Council an opportunity to try to restore public service standards at least to the level seen in previous, pre-pandemic, years.

Some services are under particular pressure with potholes taking far too long to fill in.

Potholes in Ashford Place, reported several months ago, have still not been filled

Similarly estate management standards have fallen. At this time of year a regular checks needs to be made to ensure that roads and paths are not blocked and that access road surfaces are kept clear of moss and detritus.

Access roads need to be kept free of obstructions

One of the reasons for the decline may be the failure of the Council to fill three of its Housing Management posts. These are the posts that manage individual Council housing estates. They are very much the public face of the Council in their local neighbourhoods.

At least one of the posts has been vacant since last year.

Yet it does not appear among the 57 job vacancies currently being advertised by the Council, none of which are in the housing department. City of York Council Jobs (click)

Simon Daubeney clean up at Foxwood shops

Lack of budget cannot be an excuse for inaction . The housing account makes a surplus of several million pounds each year.

Elsewhere, local Councillor Simon Daubeney undertook a welcome clean up at the Foxwood shops on Saturday.

He will have found and reported the overturned salt bin.

The area has been subject recently to increased levels of vandalism.

The residents association have suspended maintenance of the planters following damage to the plants.

A Great British Spring Clean litter pick is scheduled to take place on Saturday 12th June.

Meet at 10:30am at the Foxwood Community Centre.

The walk round will last for about an hour.

Lowfields “public service building” future to be decided

The Council is set to allocate a plot on its Lowfields development for new residential facilities for people with learning difficulties.

The Councils “forward plan” summaries a proposal which would see “specialist accommodation built for 6 adults with a learning disability who have dementia and 6 other adults.

In addition to the 12 units, there will be up to 6 cluster flats for the first steps into independent living. The building of these units will enable a pathway through specialist supported accommodation for adults with a learning disability.

There will be staff on site 24/7.

The proposed site for this specialist accommodation is the Public Service Plot at Lowfield Green”.

The Councils Executive will be asked, at a meeting which is being held on on 24th June, to agree the specialist accommodation, the procurement of a housing provider to build the accommodation and a support provider to deliver the care and support element.

The public service building is located near to the Dijon Avenue entrance to the site

The public building was originally advertised as the location for a health centre and police station. After planning permission was granted, the Council jettisoned both of those proposed uses.

This is the original plan for the site published by the Council in 2017

The action group operating in the area is currently concerned about the dust and noise emanating from the site.

They are also anxious that the promised 3 year delivery timetable for the whole project will be extended with disruption continuing for several more years.

At least the plan to provide more specialist housing will remove one of the unknowns from the development plan.

Selby house price rise highest in country

Last year we were sceptical about whether the Council would sell semi’s on its Lowfield development for £295,000.

However, even in Selby – North Yorkshires traditional cheap housing location – prices are now rising by 23% a year.

The average house price nationally has reached £333,000.

So it looks like the Lowfields pricing strategy may not be far off the mark.

We expect the Council to publish an update on how many of the Lowfields homes have now found a purchaser?

Of course, for many, such prices are far beyond what is affordable.

While demand continues to exceed supply, so prices will rise.

Hopefully other, less controversial, developments will now get going. Progress on the Sugar Beet site and at the Barbican would be particularly welcome.

In the meantime, complaints continue to be raised about the impact of the Lowfields development on neighbours.

One, at least, is complaining that the dust raised on the site is affecting their health.

That is something that the Council and their contractors need to address.

Wates appointed to Castle Mills apartment contract.

See the source imageThe Council has taken a step forward towards delivering the £28 million apartment block scheduled to be built on the former Castle Mills car park site.

A report approved yesterday says,

In October 2020 the council’s Executive approved the delivery strategy for the Castle Gateway regeneration. As part of this decision, approval was granted to undertake a procurement exercise to appoint a construction contractor to build Castle Mills on a two stage tender process.

The first stage of the process is to secure a construction contractor to develop the current RIBA Stage 3 design prepared by BDP to RIBA Stage 4 on Pre-Construction Service Contract Agreement (PSCA) and provide a tender price for undertaking the construction based on that stage 4 design.

The Council received three strong bids following an invite to tender through an open market process, which were assessed and scored on both price and quality, with Wates being the successful bidder. The council will now enter in to the PSCA stage of the contract”.

The officials concerned are keen to point out that the decision does not commit the Council to proceeding with the whole of the Castle Gateway scheme which has been costed at £55 million.

Of this, current plans are for the Council to borrow £45 million.

Good news for key workers seeking a home

But media story on Council house sales was misleading

The York Council is offering first refusal to key workers on one of its housing development sites (see box).

They are right to do so.

The eight homes can be reserved by key workers who meet the Government criteria (the definition of which is drawn fairly wide) and who are eligible for the Help To Buy scheme.

The advertising blurb is misleading of course.

There will be no “abundant outside space” at Lowfields as the adjacent playing fields are also being built on. Such open space as is planned, is unlikely to be landscaped for several years as sections of the development, including public service buildings, elderly persons accommodation, communal housing, and playgrounds, have yet to leave the drawing board.

The development has however avoided some of the eccentricities seen elsewhere in the Council’s house building programme.

At Duncombe, and in Burnholme, car parking is restricted to fewer spaces than there are properties, with the Council urging people to use a “cargo bike” to get the weekly shop in!

The change in shopping habits, with more people now shopping on-line, hasn’t been recognised with no delivery lockers included in design specifications.

Similarly, at Lowfields ,the option for purchasers to have a living boundary hedge (rather than a close boarded fence) is still is not on offer.

Still success looks likely against the background of a very buoyant housing market in the city at present. Sales should provide the income necessary to cross subsidise the Council house building element of the programme.

What may irk the Council is misleading stories like the one that appeared in the commercial media on Friday which highlighted that “right to buy” (RTB) sales exceeded the provision of new Council houses last year.

That has been the position virtually every year for half a century with successive governments maintaining the RTB policy.

The only disagreement between the Tories and Labour has been on the level of discounts to be offered.

Against the background caused by the pandemic, there will in any event be some delays in building replacements.

It is only relatively recently, that central government even allowed local authorities to reinvest the sales income to provide replacement properties for rent. The Council started purchasing replacements on the open market as recently as 10 years ago, although even this was resisted by some York Councillors.

We don’t believe that local authorities should be restricted in how much of their RTB receipts they can use to provide replacement homes.

Within the last few days, the government has announced further changes. In future, 40% of right to buy income can be used to provide replacement homes while receipts must be spent within 5 years (rather than 3) .

 But the current Council deserves credit for getting the Council house building programme going again.

Providing good quality homes to rent with high insulation values, and hence lower running costs, is a significant step forward

Such progress should be recognised by the media, commentators, and pressure groups.

Free attic room insulation for eligible Clifton ward residents

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People with attic rooms living in the Clifton area of York are being encouraged to check their eligibility for free energy-efficient insulation following recent funding secured by the council.

If successful in Clifton, the council hopes to open the scheme to other areas of York.

The council received £300,000 from the Government to run the Home Upgrade Grant scheme, which targets homes with cold attic rooms with the aim of making the homes warmer, improving energy efficiency and helping reduce fuel bills.  

The work is being arranged by Better Homes Yorkshire, on behalf of the council, with work carried out by Eclipse Energy. The work takes around two weeks to complete and involves the installation of insulation boarding to the walls and ceilings to keep the warmth in and the cold out. Following insulation, the room will be plastered and decorated in white to finish.

The council’s funding will be used to support residents with a joint annual income of £30,000 or less who live in homes with low levels of energy efficiency (those with Energy Performance Certificate band ratings of D, E, F and G).

To find out more about the scheme and to see if you’re eligible, please contact Eclipse Energy directly at 0800 8789187 or email northyorks@eclipseenergy.co.uk . More about energy efficient schemes in York is at www.york.gov.uk/HUG 

56 first time buyers take up York Councils “shared ownership” option.

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The council’s Shared Ownership Programme has helped more people afford their own home by creating 65 shared ownership homes in the City of York.

This scheme was run in partnership with Homes England, to help York residents get on to the property ladder.

Shared ownership schemes support those who cannot afford to buy a home on the open market. Under the council’s shared ownership lease, the resident buys a share of the property and pays rent on the remainder owned by the landlord. The proportion of the owned share can increase as and when the resident can afford it.

The homes are a mix of properties bought on the open market and converted into shared ownership. They have enabled 56 first time buyers, and nine others who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford to buy their own home.

The Shared Ownership Programme is a fresh approach to affordable home ownership, making homes accessible to local people in an area with high property values and high market rents. Through the scheme, City of York Council has increased its interest in housing stock across the city. This will benefit future generations of shared owners.

The Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme is a £2,762,500 funded scheme and is part of the City of York Council’s Housing Delivery Programme. The Housing Delivery Programme is also building at least 600 new homes across York, more information can be found on the council website.

House sales buoyant in York but uncertain future

It seems that the unmet demand for new homes – which built up during lockdown – has resulted in high demand and rising prices in York. The City has been named as one of “the” places to live in a succession of media surveys and that is one of the reasons for some sections of the housing market – in some neighbourhoods – are seeing a lot of activity.

It is a market that the York Council may be eager to exploit. It has several new developments in the pipeline including the huge York Central site, Duncombe Barracks, Castle Mills, Lowfields and the Burnholme Hub.

The latter two illustrate some of the challenges.

Lowfields

Neighbours of the Lowfield Green site have never been happy with what they view as an overdevelopment. A sports field will be built on without any compensatory public open space being provided.

But it is the pace of development, which is one of the current major concerns.

An FOI response has revealed that the Yorspace communal housing group have still not completed the purchase of their allocated plot (located in the south east corner of the development).

The site was used as a location for a spoil heap for about six months and the subsequent removal of this remains the only work completed in the immediate area.

Residents were promised that – from start to completion – the project would take a maximum of 3 years. A long time to suffer the drone of nearby heavy plant and increased traffic, but nevertheless the promise provided light at the end of the tunnel for neighbours.

It is 18 months since the builders arrived. So far there has been no progress on providing any community facilities or the promised retirement home.

Prospective purchasers are likely to be discouraged by the prospect of living on a building site for several more years.

More information can be found on the residents action group Facebook page

Burnholme

See the source imageA similar situation could arise at Burnholme. As explained last week, a planning application for this development will be determined on Wednesday.

The background has changed over recent days with anti-social behaviour problems escalating at the nearby Derwenthorpe development and within the Burnholme Hub itself.

We understand that the library has been a recent target for vandals.

All in all, that suggests a rethink of security across the whole neighbourhood is needed.

Expecting new residents to park their cars at remote locations simply adds to the risks.

Consultation starts on licensing smaller Houses in Multiple Occupation

Following approval by the council’s executive, the council is starting a consultation on extending licensing to a further 2,000, smaller Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

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Views on this are being sought from tenants, landlords and partner organisations. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are shared homes, and include houses and flat shares, student homes and bedsits.

A 10-week consultation is starting on a new licensing scheme to improve the quality of some of York’s less well-managed privately-rented homes.

Extending licensing arrangements for HMOs with three or four occupants would ensure a safer, better-managed and even more professionally run private rented sector. This work would focus on Hull Road, Guildhall, Clifton, Fishergate, Heworth, Micklegate, Osbaldwick & Derwent; and Fulford & Heslington wards.  Landlords would benefit from a level playing field, and be offered additional training in property management which would improve the quality and value of the property and encourage tenants to stay longer.

The consultation will run from 16 April to 27 June 2021 at www.york.gov.uk/HMOConsultation