New free ‘room in roof’ insulation for eligible homeowners

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A much-needed upgrade of insulation and improvements to York homes has been agreed to improve residents’ wellbeing and fuel bills and to meet our climate neutral ambitions.

In December 2020, Executive approved the improvement of energy performance in 60 council houses in York. This £1m retrofit will bring these homes up to an EPC C rating meaning greater insulation, less fuel burned and greater comfort. It will provide valuable lessons to support future works, boost the local supply chain, upskill tradespeople and housing staff, and support the green economy of the city.

To guide current and future investment in retrofitting homes, a new strategy is being developed to ensure a deeper understanding of the retrofit challenge in the city and bring forward proposed solutions for council housing and within the private sector.

A successful bid of £535,000 was secured by a York-led consortium in December 2020. This Government funding is to deliver energy efficiency measures for homeowners and private landlords to improve their homes in York, Harrogate, Selby and Craven.

In York, we are using our share of the funding to improve 40 homes with poorly insulated rooms in roof spaces. Next month, we will be initially targeting homes in the Clifton area where higher levels of fuel poverty and large numbers of rooms in poorly insulated roof spaces have been identified. The grant will pay for the full cost of works for eligible homeowners and up to 66% of works for private landlords.

In addition, across the four local authority areas, there will be an offer of free loft insulation and draught proofing to all fuel-poor householders with inadequate/no loft insulation.

Meanwhile, a further consortium bid led by York will be submitted this week. It aims to expand our work to insulate rooms in roofs and improve the fabric of 60 council houses including fitting solar photovoltaic panels on some 50 council houses.

Plan to make York Council houses more energy efficient

A strategic and comprehensive plan to improve the energy efficiency of council homes in York is being proposed.

These proposals will improve the quality of residents’ lives, tackle fuel poverty and contribute to the city achieving carbon neutral status by 2030.

Ongoing works to install insulation and fuel efficiency works in York’s 7,500 council homes has meant two thirds of them have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C or above – recognised by the Government as the minimum standard which all homes should aim to achieve in the future. The remaining homes require more complex works due to their non-standard construction in order to bring them up to EPC C levels. Retrofit improvements such as fitting internal or external insulation and ground source heat pumps will ensure the homes are warmer and more affordable to heat.

A report recommends that an approved budget of £1m is allocated to retrofitting the first phase of homes, with works starting in summer 2021. These works will bring around 60 poorer-performing homes up to an EPC C rating. Alongside this initial programme of works, a longer term approach to retrofit more homes over the medium and longer term will be developed. One third of all the city’s carbon emissions come from domestic buildings, therefore it is important that a strategy is developed to ensure retrofit works are delivered across the city.

To help deliver these energy saving and carbon reduction measures, the council will develop a strategy for upskilling local tradespeople to undertake retrofit works to meet the growing demand.

Building up a supply chain of retrofit contractors would dovetail with the council’s Economic Strategy and support new jobs.

Some good news in York homeless report

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Despite the COVID crisis, the feared upturn in “rough sleeping” in York has so far not materialised.

A report to a meeting next week says, “As part of the response to COVID-19, the team worked hard to ensure everyone had a place to sleep which was safe and minimised the risk of infection. This included utilising otherwise empty hotel accommodation which was supported by funding from central government. These relationships remain in place and can be utilised if needed as part of our winter response”.  

“Any person sleeping rough is one too many. However, we continue to make great progress in reducing the number of official rough sleepers. The number of rough sleepers at the last official count was 3, down from 7 the previous year”.

Ten emergency beds are available during the current winter period. This is down from last years total of 29 because of the need to maintain social distancing. The Council says it can bring back into use some of its empty property if necessary (Ordnance Lane, Holgate Road, Crombie House etc)

The main groups for whom the Council has provided letting priority are households with children and those with mental health issues. So far this year 39 households have fallen into those categories.

Most homerless presentations result from relations or friends no longer being willing to accommodate the individuals concerned. This has accounted for 302 presentations so far this year.

Other reasons for homelessness included the end of private tenancies (82), relationship breakdown 122), eviction from supported housing (22) and those leaving institutions (38).

The report presents a picture of officials working hard in a difficult area which has been further complicated by COVID.

The report doesn’t comment on the large number of empty council houses and which could contribute to a speedy reduction in the numbers living in temporary accommodation.  It also remains unclear why so many other Council properties, like former care homes, have been left empty for – in some cases – several years.

Still too many empty Council houses in York

Greater problems may be on the horizon. Higher unemployment and the end to protection from eviction for private sector tenants could see a significant increase in homelessness in the City.

In some estates an increase in Anti Social Behaviour could eventually lead to increased evictions with an unknown “knock on” effect.

So still a lot to do to get all aspects of the City’s  housing services back to an acceptable standard.

York Public Health Director quits

New housing chief also backs out of taking up York job

The Director of Health, Housing and Adult Social Care at the York Council has quit.

Now Councillors are scrambling around trying to make interim appointments to fill key vacancies just as the “second wave” of Covid 19 gains strength in the City.

They will discuss the issue at a meeting taking place next week

It seems likely responsibilities in the department will be carved up as interim Directors are appointed from within the existing office ranks.

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The situation has been exacerbated by the actions of a Hull based official who had been offered the job of Assistant Director Housing and Community Safety.

The previous post holder left the Authority in February 2020.

The appointee had been due to join the York Council on 7th September but has backed out.

Now an interim appointment is to be made from within the Councils existing staff pool. The post will report to a new (delightfully opaquely styled) Director of “Place”.

The role is principally concerned with Council house management.

The department has been criticised for its ponderous reaction to several issues including the increasing length of time taken to let empty homes.

Several housing reports – due to be presented for decision over the last 6 months – have been mysteriously shelved. There has been no explanation and the original decision dates (long passed) have not been updated on the Councils forward plan. .

Corona Virus updates – 27th March 2020

York Council housing contacts

New First bus service timetables from Sunday

From Sunday 29th March, the following changes will take effect:

First York is moving all services to a Sunday timetable (bolstered by additional buses during peak times) to ensure key workers, including health service and emergency workers, can get to and from their places of work and those without a car can still collect medical prescriptions or do their essential shopping.

Summary below, please visit our timetable page (forthcoming section) for specific journeys.

York City services

1, 4, 5, 5A, 6, 66 – Will operate a revised timetable operating every 30 minutes during the, with early journeys operating Monday – Friday. Services will operate at hourly intervals during the evening, reduction to hourly intervals earlier on a Saturday and Sunday evening than present. Saturday and Sunday morning services have also been thinned out till approx. 9am.

10 – Will operate a Sunday timetable with additional early journey weekdays. Late journeys will continue to operate Monday to Saturday, to be reviewed dependent on usage.

11 – Will operate a special timetable with early journeys weekdays, service will operate every 70 minutes. Late journeys will continue to operate Monday to Saturday, to be reviewed dependent on usage, and whatever decision is made regards tendered services.

12 – Will operate a special timetable with early journeys weekdays, service will operate every 60 minutes, journeys after 1900 will continue to operate subject to patronage review.

200 – Will operate Monday to Saturday, the final journey will operate 10 minutes later.

HSB – Will operate normal schedule.

York Park & Ride

Service 2 – Will operate every 30 minutes as service 2A, observing all stops. Service will commence at 0700 Monday – Friday, and 0930 Saturday and Sunday. Evening service will operate hourly, these evening journeys terminate at Station Avenue. Return journeys will commence at Station Avenue.

Service 7 – Will operate every 30 minutes, Service will commence at 0700 Monday – Friday, and 0930 Saturday and Sunday. Evening service will operate hourly, these evening journeys will terminate at Rougier Street. Return journeys to Designer Outlet will commence from Clifford Street.

Service 9 Will operate every 30 minutes. Service will commence at 0700 Monday – Friday, and 0930 Saturday and Sunday. Last journey from City Centre 1900.

Services not operating (Grimston/Askham/Poppleton Park & Ride – closed)

66A, UB1, 3, 3A, 8, 59, 11S

At First Bus, your safety is our top priority. In the wake of the evolving impacts of coronavirus, we are working with the Government and wider industry to ensure we are following the latest advice to keep you safe on our buses. 

For our general information please see our main Coronavirus information page »


If there any key workers not able to get to work due to the changes, please let us know and we can look to try and make amendments. Contact us at: YorkCommercialTeam@firstgroup.com

“Which” advice on supermarket shopping and more

the “Which” consumer magazine has produced a guide on food shopping on its website https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/03/supermarkets-ration-essential-items-to-prevent-coronavirus-stockpiling/

Fire and Rescue advice

Community Hubs

The Council, has confirmed that it is establishing neighbourhood “community hubs”. Council staffed they will NOT be open to the public. They are planned to support residents identified as vulnerable or those who have been in touch asking for support, by providing them with essential, non-perishable foods.

What’s App

The UK Government has launched a GOV.​UK Coronavirus Information service on WhatsApp. The new free to use service aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19), and will further reduce the burden on NHS services.

To use the free GOV.​UK Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started.

A set of menu options is then presented which the user can choose from and then be sent relevant guidance from GOV.​UK pages as well as links to GOV.​UK for further information.

For more information, please click here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-coronavirus-information-service-on-whatsapp

Public Toilets

Public toilets in the city centre will be closed until further notice.

Parks and open spaces

All council-run parks in the city will remain open for exercise but we’re asking visitors to ensure they adhere to social distance best practice. From this weekend, Rowntree Park will reopen following the flooding earlier this year.

Play areas will be closed from today and this includes basketball courts, skateparks, caged five a side areas and tennis courts. Notices are being placed in all play areas instructing the public of this decision.

To ensure we follow the government’s guidance on social distancing the York Bar Walls are closed.

Public service standards on York Council estates

A few months ago an executive Councillor considered how to deal with problems relating to graffiti. As some of the problems had arisen on Council estates – with some tenanted homes being targeted – not unreasonably Council officials republished a copy of the relevant Service Level Agreement (SLA) or Customer Contract covering graffiti removal.

Service level agreement for Council housing services in York 2013

This had been updated in 2013 and specified how quickly issues like graffiti should be resolved.

The new graffiti removal process now seems to be working well on Council owned structures although utility boxes are still an issue in some parts of the City.

A recent Freedom of information response has raised more questions than it has answered.

Asked to publish the most up to date SLA for each public service area, the Council has so far only come up with one for Housing. It turns out to be different from that published in October although the new agreement apparently dates back to May 2019.

The SLAs for other public services have not yet been provided.

Closer examination of the housing services agreement  – now referred to as a “local offer” – reveals that many of service standards which make a neighbourhood a pleasant place to live have now been discarded.

The only work volume now being monitored relates to fly tipping.

There is no mention of anti social behaviour or other crime, no standards for grass or hedge cutting, no indication of how quickly estate improvements will be completed, nothing on road and footpaths either in terms of  numbers of complaints or public satisfaction and nothing on street cleanliness.  There are no figures for empty properties and garages.

There are some public satisfaction measures, but they are very general in scope with results unlikely to be reliable at individual estate level.

There are no stats on estate inspections either in confirmation of where they are taking place or what issues are being revealed.

There is nothing on the garden maintenance scheme.

“Local Offer” on Council housing standards May 2019

Officials say that the new measures have been agreed by a “tenant’s panel”. It appears that the Council has appointed six tenants to replace the tenant’s federation which lapsed some 2 years ago. How these tenants are appointed and – crucially – how they assess the views of York’s 8000 other tenants is something of a mystery. The tenants concerned are not identified. They apparently meet once a month, but no agenda or meeting minutes are published on the Councils web site.

It is likely that those individual Residents Associations that do exist, will now insist on having an input into a revised Service Level Agreement for Council housing.

We will publish the Service Level Agreements covering other public service standards in the City when we receive, them

1444 on housing waiting list in York

There are currently 1444 people registered on the housing waiting list in York.

3 of these have been given an emergency classification with a further 204 in the top urgency category (Gold).

The York Council is leaving the North Yorkshire pooled “home choice” system next November (2020). It will then implement its own housing allocations policies.

There are currently 7512 Council homes in York. Around 600 a year of these become available for reletting. Since 2014, 522 additional homes have been added to the pool although this has been offset by 324 “right to buy” sales.

The Council hopes to build an additional 600 new homes across York over the next few years.

One major issue facing York is the demand for elderly persons accommodation. York has an estimated shortage of independent living and extra care properties which is forecast to be over 1100 independent living properties and almost 500 extra care properties by 2039.

68% of York’s’ housing is owner occupied. Average house prices have risen by 25% over the last 4 years to £235,000. That is nearly 9 times the average wage.  In the same period rents on private 2 bed properties have risen by 11.5% to £725 a month.

For those living on benefits, there is a major gulf between income and monthly private sector rents.

Housing affordability in York

Unfortunately, the Council has no influence on the terms of “Right to Buy” sales, so must try to bridge the gap with new build.

Housing fraud prevention processes to be tightened in York

According to a report which will be considered by the Councils Audit committee next week more needs to be done to prevent fraudulent applications for Council houses.

There are concerns about sub letting.

The report says

The process for identifying housing fraud was found to be working reasonably well at the outset of tenancies in that the procedure for applying for properties is being followed with the necessary documents being obtained to support the housing application.

Applications for housing are input manually onto the housing system by Housing Registrations Officers based on a phone conversation or meeting with the applicant with no signature obtained to confirm the information on the application is correct.

Pictures were not routinely taken of tenants when they start their
tenancy nor is there an agreed process or timescale to take pictures of existing tenants.

This means that an important way to confirm that the
person living at the property is as expected is being missed.

Further details of homes plans for Ordnance Lane, Duncombe Barracks & Burnholme

The York Council says that the next stage of it’s work with York residents to design the homes, streets and open spaces planned for the city is underway, and everyone is welcome to get involved.

The latest workshops will inform our architects of local priorities before they start work at the drawing boards, and are open to all residents to join in. The next phase of these engagement events will be for Ordnance Lane, Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme site.

Duncombe Barracks housing site

David Mikhail, is the founding director of our architect Mikhail Riches and is the design director for the sites coming forward in City of York Council’s Housing Delivery Programme. He said: “Our design team and City of York Council are eager to learn from the people who live, work or study in the area.

“We believe in co-design and know that collaborating with people on our projects helps us to design and build a better place: a new place that belongs to the neighbourhood right from the start.” 

Tom Brittain, assistant director of housing and safer communities, said: “The three-stage engagement events for the council-owned sites will be guided by our housing design manual (www.york.gov.uk/housingdesignmanual). We want to encourage as many people as possible to continue to support these sessions so that they can help create the homes and settings for them that they want to see.”

The event at Hospital Fields Road will be the first for this site and will start conversations between residents and our architects from Mikhail Riches. This will include asking residents about the area and what they want from the homes, streets and open spaces on the site, as has already been done for Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme.

The events at Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme will be detailed, one-day workshops, with lunch provided. At them, residents can hear the ideas and priorities voiced at the first workshops held in October. They can then create 3D models of how they’d like each site to look like.

The third events are scheduled for spring 2020 for the Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme sites. At these, plans of the proposals will be drawn up and feedback on them requested, as well as from on-line surveys, ahead of planning permission being submitted.

Everyone is welcome to these next meetings as we are very keen to hear your views. They will be:  

For more information, please visit www.york.gov.uk/HousingDeliveryProgramme

Consultation with Council tenants in York

Disappointing report from the York Council.

Its over 12 months since the York Residents’ Federation were forced to fold. They were the victims of an over officious approach by some Council staff. Their independent input never seemed to be welcomed by senior Councillors or officials.

As with any voluntary body, those involved needed to feel that their contribution is valued. Too often it clearly wasn’t by the York Council.

Some Councillors to their credit saw this as a backward step and the LibDem manifesto at the May local elections gave a pledge to revive citywide consultation arrangements.

A report on the subject of tenant consultation has now been published and will be considered by one of the Councils scrutiny committees next week. The report can be found by clicking here

Sadly there is little new in the report. It has apparently not even been run past the several successful residents associations which exist in the City

The Council needs to take consultation and tenant involvement much more seriously.