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.

63% of Council tenants say lack of car parking provision is a problem in their area

Annual Council tenants satisfaction survey results  have been published. Not surprisingly they show little change for the views record last year.

The results are based on the views of 595 tenants who returned the Councils survey form

83% of tenants area satisfied with the overall service provided by the (Council) landlord

Highest level of dissatisfaction relates to poor parking provision in estates. Despite funding having been made available, Council officials seem unable to deliver the additional parking pal-bys in locations that have been identified. It is a problem in parts of the Westfield Ward where 6 schemes, some dating back as far as 2016, have yet to be started. Only one, in Spurr Court, has been completed recently.

There are other areas where tenants say improvements are needed

  • 59% say dog fouling is a problem
  • 59% Are unhappy with the state of roads and footpaths
  • 55% say rubbish and litter is a problem in their area
  • 48% say drug use or dealing is a problem in their area.
  • 44% say disruptive teenagers are a problem in their area
  • 46% say drunk or rowdy behaviour is an issue

The Council was criticised by 1/3 tenants who said the landlord did not listen to their views. This was a marked increase in dissatisfaction since the previous survey was completed.

In 2018 the York Federation of Tenants Associations was wound up, with no independent voice now articulating residents concerns in many of the City’s estates.

£23,620 being written off in York for 4 Council tenant arrears

The York Councils Executive member with responsible for housing is being asked to write off the bad debts of 4 former Council tenants.

The amount involved is nearly £6000 each.

With average Council house rents around £300 a month, it means that these former tenants didn’t pay any rent for around 18 months.

They are unlikely to have been housing benefit cases as the rent payable in those cases is usually minimal.

The tenants apparently absconded between 2 and 5 years ago.

The identities of the tenants involved are not being disclosed. In the past “naming names” has sometimes allowed the Council to trace those who have absconded. It is not clear why the Council has changed its policy and granted anonymity in these cases.

The Council says that if it does trace the individuals concerned they will still be required to pay what they owe.

So how safe are Council flats in York?

We’ve been out checking today

Clearly a check needs to be made on those blocks which have not recently been redecorated to ensure notices are up to date.

Fire procedure notice

We think that the housing department needs to proactively communicate with tenants to reassure them following this weeks tragic news from London.

Combustible storage notice

York has relatively few high rise blocks but, even at those with 2 or 3 storeys, checks need to be made on alarm systems, lighting, fire doors and electrical safety.

The results of the latest Fire Service safety audit needs to be publicly displayed in each block

We think that tenants should be offered smoke alarms and free electrical equipment safety checks.

We hope that the council will ensure that both primary and secondary safety requirements are highlighted in any planning decisions made on new or modernised flat developments ( including conversions such as the one agreed for the former Nestle factory as recently as Thursday).

Fire exit direction sign

Finally the Council needs to reconsider whether it should be consulting on transferring its stock into the management of an “arms length company”. This weeks events point to the insensitivity of such arrangements with both tenants and Councillors frustrated at a lack of engagement by officials.

Better to refine the tried and tested Council housing model which at least allows tenants to exercise some control through the ballot box.

The present system is far from perfect but appears to be better than the other available options.

York Council housing at risk

The York Council has decided to spend £200,000 surveying views on whether to ditch its Council house management  responsibilities.

council-housing-at-risk

Some Councillors want to transfer management of the homes to an independent company as was done in Leeds.

We think that they are wrong.

When polled 15 years ago on a similar proposal tenants voted overwhelmingly to retain the York Council as a landlord.

More recently, when asked whether they were satisfied with the Council as a landlord 89% said that they were.

The housing account currently shows a surplus although government policies could change this in the medium term. Central government sets rent levels (which they are reducing as a way of controlling benefit claims).

They also plan to sell off some Council houses, when they become vacant, to the highest bidder as a way of balancing their books. The Liberal Democrats have started a petition opposing this “sell off”. Click here

They also intend to charge “commercial rents” to tenants that they regard as “wealthy”. This plan, at least, wasn’t taken into account in a gloomy and selective officer report which prompted the outsourcing plot.

The plan was opposed by Andrew Waller and a Green Party Councillor when debated by the Council’s Executive but slipped through anyway.

The resulting turmoil and indecision will be exacerbated by the resignation of the Head of Housing Services. His post will be filled on a temporary basis via an internal appointment.

All in all, we think that the Council has more pressing issues to address.

They should abandon this plan which is a waste of time and money

 

£200,000 for consultant’s report on a York Council housing stock transfer is “premature”

With the York Council showing little inclination or ability to bring several major change projects to a conclusion (Guildhall, York Central, Community Stadium, ring road improvements etc.), you would think that the last thing they would want to do is add another project to a growing list.Facts 4

It seems not, as the “Executive” is set on reopening the debate about whether to hive off its Council Housing activities. It is little more than a decade since tenants rejected the idea of having their tenancies transferred to either a Housing Association or quasi-independent “arm’s length company”.

It’s not as though the Council’s decision to outsource activities like econ
omic Facts 2development/tourism/markets has been an outstanding success. The bodies are largely self-serving and unaccountable (while still sucking in large amounts of public money).

It seems that Tories in the city want to rid themselves of Council housing responsibilities in the wake of the central government decision to reduce rent levels by 1% a year until 2019 (an attempt to reduce the cost of rent rebates). This could eat into the £3 million+ a year surplus that the York housing account currently makes.

Facts 1Confusion also surrounds the government’s plan to force Council’s to sell vacant “higher value” Council houses on the open market, to help to subsidise the sale of housing association properties to their tenants.

The effects of both these policies are far from clear. It is at least possible that social housing sales to sitting tenants will be very low even with the substantial discounts.

Council house management in York is far from perfect. We have often criticised the maintenance regime on communal areas and garage blocks. But that requires a change in management attitudes. It does not suggest a change in ownership and with it a loss of democratic accountability.Facts 3

 Spending £200,000 on employing consultants to engineer change is both profligate and premature.  It won’t produce a single extra affordable rent property in the City.

The effects of government policy will be clearer in a couple of years’ time.  The Council should concentrate its limited resources on other more pressing issues in the meantime.

Report extarct

Threat to York Council housing

It looks like Tory Councillors are following up their threat to demolish many Council house in York.

Council house buildingThe idea was first raised in February in a report that was rushed through the Council with little debate and no consultation.

Now an item has been placed in the Council’s forward plan which lists upcoming decisions.

It includes another opaque statement which is bound to cause concern amongst tenants. A report will recommend that the Council undertakes “a full housing stock options appraisal and at the same time develop tenant and staff panels and establish an ad-hoc cross party member scrutiny panel to consider the long term sustainability of the service and assess the different organisational governance models to support the final decision making process”.

So 15 years after tenants in York decisively rejected a move, which would have seen their homes transferred to a housing association, it looks like the idea is being revived.

For a while the neo privatisation of Council housing was a key Labour party policy. It saw several authorities in the  1990’s transfer their housing stock to housing associations. Some were relatively successful but they were outnumbered by many which completely lost contact with their tenants. Lack of accountability became -and still is – a major issue in some Cities.  So called “Arms Length Management Organisations” have fared little better.

In York tenants decisively voted to remain with the Council.

While we have not been impressed with several aspects of the management of Council housing in the City over the last 5 years, we believe that a shake up in the people involved will lead to improvements.

Some communal areas are neglected by housing managers in York

Some communal areas are neglected by housing managers in York

Problems can be traced to a lack of attention to detail particularly in communal area maintenance and estate improvements.

Housing standards are generally good. Even the system built homes – the target of Tory criticism in February – continue to provide accommodation which is regarded as satisfactory by most occupants.

The housing account has built up a £20 million surplus although it continues to carry a £120 million historic debt burden.  Council house sale levels – even after recent increases to discount rates – remain modest.

However, the Council may have to contribute towards the costs involved in the present governments scheme to discount the sale of resident’s association properties.

Successive councils have failed to use funding streams such as the new homes bonus to pay for additional Council homes. They have failed to supplement stocks by buying on the open market when prices are favourable.

The Council has in recent years also failed to support local Residents Associations and is now even  consulting on reducing their influence on the use of the annual estate improvement budget.

Weaker tenant representation will make it easier for politicians to impose drastic change without proper discussion.

A meeting to discuss the – currently secret – plans will take place on 13th October.

The distribution of Council houses in York by ward is:

Ward

No Council houses
Acomb

398

Bishopthorpe

66

Clifton

891

Copmanthorpe

41

Dringhouses

414

Fishergate

143

Fulford

120

Guildhall

723

Heworth

1258

Holgate

447

Hull Rd

698

Micklegate

568

Osbaldwick

78

Rawcliffe

19

Rural West

95

Westfield

1717

Wheldrake

44

TOTAL

7720

We also understand that a meeting on 29th September is likely to look again at the discredited plan to develop the garage site to the rear of Newbury Avenue.

Council house account makes huge £4.3 million surplus in York

The Housing Revenue Account was budgeted to make a surplus of £2,624k in 2015/16.

A report to a meeting taking place today says the estimates were badly wrong

“There has been an overspend of £639k on repairs and maintenance, mainly due to the use of sub-contractors for high value repairs to resolve damp issues at a number of properties.

Mixed views from tenants on housing services in York

Mixed views from tenants on housing services in York

This was offset by a number of underspends in

  • general maintenance (£72k),
  • the painting programme (£150k)
  • decoration allowances (£49k) plus
  • £178k on utilities,
  • £436k from delays in capital schemes that are funded from revenue,
  • £248k lower than budgeted cost of capital,
  • £107k of additional interest income and
  • £257k from lower than budgeted levels of arrears and bad debts.

This resulted in an overall surplus of £4,344k and therefore an underspend of £1,720k”.

Tenants area likely to be unhappy.

There have been complaints about poor maintenance standards on some amenity and garage areas while requests for improved car parking provision on many estates are taking an excessive time to process.

The Council needs to tackle these issues quickly now that it has the funds available

Garage areas are neglected in many estates

Garage areas are neglected in many estates