New licensing rules for houses in multiple occupation


New national licensing conditions for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are being brought into effect which could improve the quality of accommodation provided in York.

A council motion on 26 October 2017 requested a review of evidence supporting the case for extended licensing. A report being put to senior councillors on 15 March, outlines the government’s recommendations and asks if there is a case to extend licensing locally through an additional, discretionary HMO licensing scheme.

The government’s changes relate to a national scheme which, subject to parliamentary approval, proposes to:

  • extend mandatory licensing to all HMOs – other than those converted pre 1991 and flats in larger, purpose-built blocks – that are occupied by five or more persons in two or more separate households
  • Introduce mandatory conditions for the minimum sleeping room sizes and maximum number of occupants in all licensed HMOs
  • Introduce a mandatory condition to provide refuse storage facilities.

Details of the scheme will be announced before it becomes law on 1 October 2018. Then, evidence on the legislation’s impact will be assessed to consider the need for an enhanced, local scheme.”


Enhanced homeless scheme secures £2.4m grant

Two extra new apartments and replacement windows are among the enhancements to what is now a 57-unit temporary accommodation building in central York, for which the council has secured an additional £2.4m funding.The updated plans have factored in conditions attached to a £2.365m grant from Homes England (HE). This funding adds to a £10.5m budget already agreed by the council for the purchase and redevelopment of James House on James Street, as well as costs associated with closing and relocating existing temporary accommodation for homeless households.

This extra funding means a saving of £500,000 to the council. Senior councillors are being asked to approve the revised budget for James House of £12.4m, financed by £2.451m from Homes England and £9.949m from the Housing Revenue Account.

The specification of the conversion has increased. Two additional flats will be created, making a total of 57, and some others will be increased in size to meet national requirements and the criteria of the HE grant. In addition, an access road will be built and windows on the scheme will be renewed with double glazing and improved sound insulation.

Following approval by senior councillors on 16 March 2017, James House on James Street was bought and planning permission was submitted in early November 2017.

The self-contained flats will be owned and managed by City of York Council. James Street consolidates into one building much of the temporary accommodation for homeless people currently scattered across the city. It will also replace the accommodation at Ordnance Lane.

£1.4 million Lincoln Court upgrade announced

The Council will spend £1.4 million upgrading the Lincoln Court sheltered housing scheme on Ascot Way next year.

Lincoln Court

A report be considered next week recommends modernising the existing 26 flats while building an extension which will provide an additional 8 units designed for dementia sufferers.

The extension will also provide a base for mobile care workers.This new build feature had not previously been revealed in the Councils plans.

The 4 existing “bedsits” will be converted into flats.

There is currently a shortfall, against demand, of over 1000 units of sheltered accommodation in the City.

The major upgrade will provide:

  1. 8 new, one bed apartments which will be dementia friendly.
  2. Conversion of 4 existing bedsits into 4 one bed apartments.
  3. A new and improved entrance lobby, communal facilities including a community lounge, WC, assisted bathing, hairdressing/therapy room, buggy store, office/s for care and other staff, gardens and improved car parking.

Planned investment and maintenance plans already included:

  • the installation of a new communal boiler and plant room;
  • the modernisation of individual flats to include new kitchen, bathroom, heating and wiring;
  • new front doors and windows;
  • a new door entry system
  • roof works;
  • external & internal decoration;
  • some high level external works to rainwater goods and asbestos soffits.

It is expected that, as soon as the budget for the scheme is agreed, existing tenants will be fully consulted on the implications of the building plans. With the adjacent Windsor House set to be demolished at the same time, some inconvenience is inevitable.

Residents are likely to question whether the inclusion of an office base on the site – together with the changes brought by the erection of the disability centre next door – might have a significant impact on traffic and parking issues in the area.

Housing hyperbole helps no one.

Call by MP for York Local Plan to be rejected was irresponsible and poorly researched

Claims by Rachel Maskell MP that people do not live in high-value, luxury apartments built in the City Centre, and that the homes were purchased as “an investment, or they are used just for holidays and race days or weekends”, don’t seem to be rooted in fact.

Maskell also claimed the push for more City centre accommodation is “an experiment in social cleansing”, relying entirely on anecdotal evidence to support her assertion.

She repeated her claims last week 

 Publicly available statistics confirm that,of the 1036 homes built in the first 6 months of the current financial year, 637 were aimed at students. Student needs reflect in both housing targets and outturns.  Most of the flats were built on Lawrence Street. They are hardly “luxurious” or “expensive” but they do not count as affordable housing (because it is tied accommodation)

Provision of specialist accommodation of this type reduces the pressure to convert family accommodation into student lets.

Between April 2017 and September 2017 planning permission was also granted for 892 new homes. These included large developments at The Barbican, Nestle, and Hungate. (Only 3 were for student accommodation)

The emerging Local Plan provides for 867 new homes to be built each year. This compares to an average of 686 completed over the last 5 years. At least 20% will be “affordable”.

Historic figures (see below) reveal that there has been a spurt in house building in the City over the last 3 years.  Before that, five years of recession took a toll on house building numbers.

The housing waiting list has stabilised at 1200 (excluding those seeking a transfer) with people waiting on average for 12 months for a new home. The number of homeless, presenting to the Council, is now around 100 a year (down from a 10-year peak of 258).

Lack of land clearly is not an issue impacting on the granting of planning permission for new developments in the City.

The Council might be criticised for not releasing funding to buy properties on the open market to increase the social rent pool. It had run a surplus of over £20 million on its housing account for over 6 years (although very recently it agreed to release some of the surplus to ease social housing demands).

In addition, the total amount of unspent payments in lieu of affordable housing that the council currently holds is £4.325m.

There are issues to be addressed. The apparent spike in “rough sleeping“ has previously been highlighted.

Over the last few months the Council has guaranteed a hostel bed for anyone found sleeping on the streets. It is an initiative that seems to have worked during the recent period of cold weather.

York desperately needs a Local Plan.

Funding the endless revisions has debilitated the Council’s budget with an estimate of £10 million already having been devoted to the process.

Arguing that the current proposals should be abandoned is both reckless and shortsighted.

Some revisions to the text might be expected, but the basic thrust of the document is right and, most importantly, deliverable.

Some encouraging comparisons for York in new City study

York now has the highest employment rate of any City in the north of England or Scotland. It also has one of the lowest claimant (benefit) rates.

York has a relatively small proportion of jobs in employment sectors which are expected to shrink in size over the next few years.

These include sales assistants and retail cashiers,other administrative occupations, customer service occupations, administrative occupations: finance and elementary storage occupations. A century ago the most vulnerable occupations were forecast (correctly) to be domestic indoor servants.

Th news is contained in a new report published by the “Centre for Cities”.

The report can be read by clicking here

York tends to be average to better than average on most tests applied by the study.

It fares well on the number of residents with high level qualifications having 42.7% compared to the UK average of  38.0%

Perhaps more surprisingly York does’t yet feature in the top 10 of City’s with ultra fast broadband access while housing remains more affordable than in many southern cities.


Oakhaven replacement plans on display this week

Last year, care company Ashley House won a contract from the City of York Council to design, build and operate an “extra care” sheltered housing complex at the site of the old Oakhaven care home on Acomb Road.

Oakhaven site

No planning application for the project – which is running over a year behind schedule – has yet been submitted but according to the Councils web site initial plans are being unveiled this week.

Drawings will be on display at Acomb Explore Library on Front Street from Thursday March 1 to Thursday, March 8.

A public event is also being on Thursday, March 1 from 4pm to 7pm at York Medical Group, 199 Acomb Road, York.

The site has been hit by controversy in recent years with the adjacent police station being threatened with closure. It was initially thought that that site would also be incorporated into the new development.

In addition, the nearby Carlton Tavern pub narrowly avoided an attempt to replace it with a new care home. That controversy is still ongoing.

The expectation for residents will be that a holistic plan for the whole neighbourhood will emerge quickly.

Oakhaven was closed by City of York Council in late 2015, as part of its plan to close authority-run homes which it says are out-of-date, and not up to modern standards.

The new “state-of-the-art” development will provide 56 apartments for older people, and will include a lounge and dining room serving hot meals.

People can also view the proposals or comment online by clicking here or via email  to

The consultation is only open until 8th March

Another Council garage forecourt area resurfaced.

Following on from last weeks news that the forecourt of the Council garage area in little Green Lane had been resurfaced, we were pleased to see that the block in Marston Avenue has also been refurbished. Both forecourts were reported as being in need of attention at a meeting which took place last September.

As well as resurfacing, the Council were asked to repair boundary fences and cut back overgrown vegetation.

Both areas now look much Improved.

NB The notices on the garage doors are from someone who has lost a cat (left)

Changes to leases and parking on York council land proposed

A new lease agreement, for use with future sales of council flats, is being proposed, along with improved parking enforcement on council housing land.

The proposals aim to make the new leases for council flats clearer.

The plan is to update them in line with current best practice and, through them, to allow City of York Council to recover costs from leaseholders for services from which they benefit.

The proposed new leases would give council tenants and leaseholders the same clauses across both tenures, such as in regard to keeping pets.

Updating parking charges and enforcement on council housing land is being proposed too.

Introducing charging for parking permits on housing land would initially be at a lower rate than current resident parking rates but will increase to their levels over five years. Income from the scheme would help to cover the cost of parking enforcement.

Lincoln Court modernisation – decision on 15th March

Lincoln Court

We have reported previously that the decision to demolish Windsor House in Ascot Way would have a knock on effect on the adjacent Lincoln Court sheltered accommodation.  The heating boiler for both buildings is located within Windsor House.

It became clear last week that the council had allocated £60,000 in its budget to replace all the windows at Lincoln Court. A much needed improvement.

Now we understand that another report is to be presented to the Councils Executive committee on 15th March. The report will talk about remodelling the communal areas in the building and modernising/remodeling the apartments.

If approved, the new building would be dubbed “Sheltered Housing Plus”.

The Council says that  the users of the current community facilities will also be engaged in shaping the re-design and the development of the new facilities and services. The work would be undertaken as part of the Council’s “Older peoples programme”. This project has a poor reputation in the Westfield area officials having run roughshod over the views of those local residents who wanted to conserve the Lowfields playing fields.

The programme officials also threatening to fence off the open space on Chesney’s Field, causing more anger from locals.

The older persons programme is massively in delay with new elderly care facilities, promised for 2014, still not off the ground.

Hopefully any consultation will be more meaningful on this occasion.

Little Green Lane garage area resurfaced

After many representations by residents, supported by local Councillors, the little Green Lane garage area forecourt and access road has been resurfaced.

The area now looks quite tidy, although it will be important to ensure that there is no more fly tipping and that undergrowth is cut back from the boundaries.

Good job done though.

Before access road


after forecourt

After parking area

After access road