New Homes Bonus & York

Empty home in Bradley Drive

Empty home in Bradley Drive

Labour Councillors are claiming that the £2.4 million New Homes Bonus, allocated this year to the York Council, is the result of bringing long term empty properties back into use.


They claim to have “torn up” the previous Councils empty homes policy when they took office in  2011.


In reality the latest (publicly available) calculations on the Governments web site reveal that only 11 long term empty York homes  were brought back into use between October 2011 and October 2012.

This is not surprising as there are very few, long term, empty residential properties in York.

Most of the Bonus was generated by the 352 additional homes built in the City. This again, by historical standards, is a relatively low figure.

Of these new homes, 152 were classified as “affordable”

The New Homes Bonus is a coalition government initiative which allows Local Authorities to retain, for a period of 6 years, part of the extra Council Tax generated when additional homes are built, commercial property converted into residential use or when long term empty homes are brought  back into use.

Unlike other Authorities the York Council is not investing the New Homes Bonus in providing additional affordable homes in the City.

They have also ignored government advice that residents should be consulted on the use of the Bonus.

Council house rent arrears in York

Council house rent arrears in York click for source document

Council house rent arrears in York click for source document

The increasingly ubiquitous Cllr Burton has taken to the York Press today to tell us that rent arrears have increased since the abolition of the spare room subsidy (bedroom tax).

Sadly for him that simply isn’t true.


The actual figures can be found on the Councils web site (click graphic).

They show that, with the improvement on the economy, fewer tenants are now in arrears than was the case 3 years ago.

In total 1017 tenants were affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy.

The government awarded the York Council £88,730.96 to offset any hardship that may have been caused by the change to benefit arrangements.

The total amount of discretionary housing payment spent on ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’ cases this financial year is £42,344.74.

154 tenants received payments.

NB. The Labour Council recently arbitrarily removed 2400 people from the housing waiting list.


Labour’s housing waiting list scam – Freedom of Information request submitted

click to access

click to access

A Freedom of Information request has been submitted aimed at getting to the bottom of the recent drop in the number of people on the social housing waiting list in York.

The number on the  list fell from over 4600 families at the beginning of September, to only 2200 in October. No new social housing developments were completed for occupation during that period.

It turned out that a behind closed doors decision had been taken to kick more than half of the applicants off the list.

We now understand that most of these were deemed to be people who did not have a real housing need and who had not applied for any of the homes advertised during the previous 12 months.

Of the others, 140 were already homeowners and 187 had no local connection while 13 had no local connection and were also homeowners

57 applicants had their application banding changed from Gold to Silver.
The Council has to respond within 28 days to the FOI request.
The request seeks details of how the decision was taken, when and by whom.

It asks the Council what consultation was undertaken.

It seeks more information about the categories of people who have been thrown off the register.

Labour fiddle York housing waiting list figures

Cabinet member orders that 2400 residents be taken off list

Earlier in the week a report, which is being presented to the York Council “Cabinet”, claimed that the numbers on the Housing waiting list had more than halved in 6 months.

click for source document

click for source document

The report showed that only 2420 are now registered on the list – down from 4692 at the end of March.

4692 was the figure quoted by Labour to justify their plans to build 22,000 additional homes over the next 15 years, mainly on green belt land next to the City.

No explanation was given for this phenomenal reduction which was simply labelled as a “decrease”.

It was all the more surprising as, since Labour took control of the Council the supply of new “affordable” homes, has tailed off.

It now turns out that the change has been achieved simply by taking people off the list who Labour Councillors feel are not in housing need.

These include all those in the so called “bronze” category.

This is another decision that has been taken without any consultation and behind closed doors. It has not been widely publicised since it was introduced about 4 weeks ago..

No doubt Labour hoped, nearer the next Council elections, to announce that they had “solved” York’s housing problems.

Electors are not so easily fooled.

Behind closed doors logoIt is time that the Council ordered a public scrutiny review of the way in which the North Yorkshire housing waiting list has been massaged.

Some of the revised criteria that are now being applied will win general support (listed below).

Many however will find this new example of secrecy a sinister development.

The key changes are listed below.


House prices in York

Shelter has issued another report claiming that there are not enough “affordable” homes for families to buy in York.

This is probably true but not to the extent that is claimed.

As with much other research data the figures are bedevilled by the use of average income figures.

It matters little what percentage of properties on the market are “affordable”. The key figure is the gross number available.

The key to whether there are “enough” affordable homes for sale rests with much more simple question.

What income would a family with 2 children need to be able to afford to buy a 2 or 3 bedroomed property in the City?

Foxwood Lane to rent

Foxwood Lane to rent

Terrington Court to rent

Terrington Court to rent

Front Street to rent

Front Street to rent

Crombie Avenue for sale

Crombie Avenue for sale

Hatfield Walk to buy

Hatfield Walk to buy

Bramham Avenue to buy

Bramham Avenue to buy

There are numerous properties currently advertised for under £100,000 in York. Most are, however, flats and are unlikely to appeal to families. (click images right and left for details)

• The cheapest 2 bedroomed house is advertised at £112,500 (Bramham Avenue)

• A similar 2 bed terrace in Kingsway West is advertised for £116,995.

• The cheapest 3 bedroomed house is available in Hatfield Walk for £124,950.

• A 3 bedroomed property in Barkston Close will cost £130,000

• The cheapest 4 bedroomed property can be found in Crombie Avenue for £165,000.

• A 4 bedroomed bungalow in Coniston Close in Rawcliffe is advertised at £177,000

• The cheapest 5 bedroomed property can be found in Osbaldwick Lane for £200,000.


• On the rental market a 2 bed terrace on Front Street can be had for £495 pcm

• The cheapest 3 bedroomed property is in Terrington Court in Strensall

• The cheapest 4 bedroomed property available to rent can be found on Foxwood Lane at £750 pcm.

It is the price of (privately) rented property that is the biggest issue in York at present.

This is partly influenced by the boom in student lets.

A number of new student halls of residence have recently been given planning permission in the City including the Press site.

There has been a boom in planning applications this year with many brownfield sites set to produce many more homes than were included in the draft Local Plan assumptions.

Oliver House – “we want some more information”

The Council has confirmed that a proposal, submitted earlier in the year by the CVS, to lease and improve Oliver House, proved not to be financially viable.


New terms are now being renegotiated with the expectation that a report will be considered at a meeting in December.

The property has been empty for 18 months and sits on a prime site which could generate a major capital receipt for the local taxpayer.

Conversion of residential sites like these to offices is very short-sighted.

The Council would be wiser to sell the site for development as housing and use the receipt to provide offices in a cheaper – possibly sub-urban – location.

This would have the additional advantage of regenerating one of our run down local high streets.

At a recent Council meeting Westfield Cllr Lynn Jeffries posed the following question to the responsible Cabinet member;


Draft private housing strategy open for comment

City of York Council’s is consulting on its plans for privately rented accommodation in the City.

The private sector housing strategy will be shared amongst landlords, stakeholders, tenants and partners. With 85 per cent of all homes in York either privately owned or rented, this plan will impact on a significant proportion of the community.

White Swan

White Swan

Earlier this year and in anticipation of the strategy, the council has supported property owners to return or convert buildings back into domestic use – notably the White Swan – as well as helping home owners and landlords and tenants cut fuel bills and maximise energy efficiency.

However the Council Leadership has recently repeated its opposition to converting retail accommodation into residential.

The council has been developing a new landlord accreditation scheme called YorProperty to help raise standards of rented accommodation, which will be a focus of the Landlord’s Fair on 17 October (part of Housing Week) when the draft will also be presented to those attending.

Views of the strategy are now needed. Feedback will be used to shape the final strategy due for publication in the New Year. Complete the short questionnaire at The closing date for feedback is 22 November 2014.

Council tenants unhappy with York Council as performance slips

Tenant satisfaction with the way that the Council runs its housing operation has fallen over the last year.

A report, produced by the newly-formed “Tenant Scrutiny Panel”, looks at how the council has performed in the previous 12 months.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

On most measures the Councils performance has declined.

• The number of tenants satisfied with repairs and maintenance fell from 85% to 82% while satisfaction with “the general condition of their home” fell from 83% to 81%.

• Only 55% of tenant adaptations were completed on time compared to 85% the previous year.

• Tenants satisfied with the standard of their new homes fell from 66% to 60%.

• There was an improvement in the time taken to relet empty properties although at 25 days this was worse than is achieved by several other Councils.

• Tenants satisfied with ”involvement in management & decisions” fell from 53% to 51%

• Tenants satisfied with” the outcome of their complaint” was only 34% compared to a target of 70%

• It took longer to remove graffiti.

• Nine out of 10 tenants responding to the Tenant Satisfaction Survey were satisfied with their neighbourhood as a place to live.

The results mirror the growing dissatisfaction levels revealed by the Councils more general “big survey” the results of which were revealed last month.

To view the full report click here

Small Changes, Big Savings – Acomb Explore money event on Monday 14th October,

People across York are being invited to boost their financial know-how in a series of events designed to help people make savings, get more out of the internet and make the banks work better for them.

A series of seven Small Changes, Big Savings sessions are being held at different venues across the city during York’s Housing Week, from 14-18 October, which is looking at ways to overcome poverty.

The ‘Small Changes, Big Savings’ events held across the city will be at:

• •Acomb Explore on Monday 14 October, 9:30-11:30am

•Bell Farm Social Hall on Tuesday 15 October, 10am-12 noon when we’ll be launching our anti loan shark charter

• •Clements Hall on 15 October 1:30-3:30pm;

• •Sanderson Court on Wednesday 16 October, 9:30-11:30am

• •Foxwood Community Centre on Thursday 17 October, 9:30-11am

• •Tang Hall on 17 October, 2-4pm

• •Burton Stone Community Centre, on Friday 18 October, 1-3pm.