Poll on older peoples accommodation in York

Residents across York are being asked for their views on how and where they, or their loved ones, want to live and be supported as they age in a city wide consultation this month.

City of York Council wants to hear the views of all residents, regardless of their age, about the different accommodation options and what can be done to support life long independence.

The survey forms part of York’s Older People’s Accommodation Programme which aims to ensure that older people’s accommodation needs are met now and in the future.

The survey is available online now at https://www.york.gov.uk/consultations and in paper copy Explore Library Learning Centres. The council will also be running consultations directly with key stakeholders and community groups. The closing date for the consultation is 11 August.

The Tackling Fuel Poverty scheme received £5.7 million from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.S

Independent report into housing in York published

Local Government Association (LGA) report says the house-building rate in York is comparable to rest of the country.

The net new supply in York increased the existing housing stock by 1.5% during 2017/18.

This is much higher than the England average of 0.9%, suggesting the level of local supply is unlikely to be an issue. The Government’s national target of 300,000 homes per year is equivalent to 1.3%.

Population growth in York is set to average 686 people per year from 2020 to 2041, with projected average annual household growth of 430 households over the same period. This is significantly lower that the Council is forecasting in its draft Local Plan

According to the report, which was published this week, the average house price in York in 2018 was £254,000. The median ratio of house prices to local earnings is 8.8. This is higher than the England average of 8.0, suggesting high house prices are likely to be an issue for some

Private rents in York in the 12 months to September 2018 ranged from £565 per month for a lower quartile one bed to £2,058 for an upper quartile four (or more) bed property. The overall median private rent was £745, which is approximately the same as the England average of £690, suggesting that high private rents may also be an issue.

House prices in York in December 2018 are higher than their 2007/08 peak by 25.4%, compared with England at +27.3%.

Employment in York improved from 75.3% in 2014/15 to 78.7% in 2017/18; unemployment changed from 3.6% to 3.1%; and economic inactivity changed from 21.7% to 19.4%.

Gross domestic household income in York was £18,070 per person per year in 2016, compared with £14,133 in 2006. By comparison the figure for England changed from £15,349 to £19,878 over the same period.

The overall population in York changed by +0.6% due to migration in the 12 months to June 2017: +0.2% from domestic sources and +0.4% from international.

By age, the largest single contribution to growth was from 19-year olds.

The average life expectancy for people born in 2015-17 in York is 80.2 years for men and 83.5 years for women.

The equivalent national figures are 79.6 and 83.1 respectively.

The report confirms that second home ownership, empty homes and inward migration numbers are not significant issues for the City compared to the rest of the country.

The full report can be read by clicking here

New benefits system causing problems in York

Councillors will receive on update on the financial support and welfare benefit activities being offered to residents at a meeting on Thursday.

A copy of the report can be read by clicking here

At the meeting, the Executive will be asked to note the update which highlights the range of work undertaken to support those across the city  in need of financial help. Councillors will also be asked to approve an action plan, which has been developed following recommendations from a recent financial inclusion scrutiny review.

In the 2018/19 financial year the York Financial Assistance Scheme spent £228,341 providing direct help to residents in financial difficulty due to exceptional circumstances.

In addition, nine projects, delivered by partner organisations, were awarded grants totalling £166,358 to target help and support to those that need it most.  These ranged from funding Citizens Advice York for their specialist debt support service to working with those over 50 to improve their prospects of employment to placing advice services in community venues and GP surgeries making them easier to access for residents. 

The report also recognises the positive impact of various community projects. These include the continued success of the Chapelfields Community Hub which has just celebrated its second birthday. Also, ‘cooking on a budget’ courses have been delivered in Clifton, Haxby Road, Bell Farm, Tang Hall and Chapelfields. These have been used to encourage low cost healthy eating and as a gateway into other opportunities.

As well as this, the council is continuing to work with Advice York and other partners to promote the council tax support scheme.  The online application process has been made easier and residents can be considered for both council tax support and discretionary housing payments through a single form.  In addition, information events have taken place to promote the council tax support scheme to older people.

“Residents wanting to find out more about financial assistance in York can visit www.york.gov.uk/Benefits.”

Work starts on Burnholme elderly persons accommodation

Work has stared on building a new 80 bed care home at the Burnholme site.

When completed, the Council will have the right to fill 25 of the beds

A lot of building work going on at Burnholme

Work is also proceeding on renovating sports facilities on the Burnholme site. A new library complex has already opened.

The care home being built on the Fordlands Road site (by Octopus Health care) will be completed in the summer of 2020. A site for another home has been reserved in the new York Central development.

The progress being made on these sites contrasts with other projects aimed at addressing the needs of the City’s increasing elderly population on the west of the City.

Tenders are only now being sought for the long awaited elderly persons facility on the Lowfields site. Other specialist homes on the west of the City, such as Windsor House and Lincoln Court have already been cleared of their elderly occupants.

One embarrassment for the Council, is the elderly persons home at Oakhaven. Residents were controversially moved from this building 3 years ago.

Despite some temporary uses, the building has remained largely unused ever since.

The Council has not been able to say when work on a replacement will start.

The Council says that it will start building houses at Lowfield this summer. Many will be “shared ownership” although there seems to have been little research done on the size of the market – among those on the waiting list – for this type of tenure.

There is, however, a lot of demand from older people – currently occupying large council and housing association houses – who want to “downsize” to bungalows or flats.

Work has started on constructing the Tudor Road access onto the Lowfields site. A new lay-by has been provided nearby.

While we remain critical of the Councils plan to build on the playing field at Lowfield, it also now seems that they may have got the mix of home types wrong.

There should have been more bungalows.

The issue of the Yorspace” communal housing development – which is not classified as “affordable” – has also still not been resolved.

£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.