Liberal Democrat’s call for voice of tenants to be reinstated

Liberal Democrat Councillors have called on the Council to support and restore the York Residents’ Federation, the voice for tenants and residents associations in the city, following a recent collapse of the Federation.

The York Residents’ Federation represents the interests of residents and tenants by promoting resident’s rights to be involved in developing policies on housing and other issues at the Council.

Up until this month, the Federation had operated for over 25 years, playing a huge role in providing local and detailed knowledge to Council departments and acting as a representative sounding board to be consulted on ideas and changes to Council policies.

Thanks to the effort of hard working volunteers, the Federation has made tangible changes to estates, which have ensured that residents of mixed tenures of can take pride in their own communities.

To ensure the Federation is reinstated, the Liberal Democrats have formally requested a scrutiny review to identify areas in which the Council can support greater tenant engagement.

Councillor Ann Reid, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Housing, commented:

Ann Reid

“The York Residents Federation has played a crucial role in ensuring resident’s aspirations are reflected in Council housing policies and therefore, we are naturally alarmed at the recent collapse of the Federation.”

“Liberal Democrats are committed to ensuring that the Federation is reinstated and that it is properly supported in representing tenants and residents.”

“I hope the scrutiny committee see the reasoning behind our request and act swiftly in identifying opportunities in which the Council can restore and strengthen tenant engagement.”

York Council set to punish “good tenants”?

The York Council is aiming to quit the North Yorkshire Home Choice service (NTHC). The scheme provides a boundary free geographical area in North Yorkshire for which prospective social housing tenants can register their interest. It allows, for example, Selby residents to register an interest in moving to York, while York applicants can register to move to Scarborough.

Most respondents to a council survey disagreed with the York plan to leave the organisation, although most did agree with a range of changes which would tighten up the how social housing allocations are made.

These include plans to crack down on fraudulent applications and ways to reduce the period during which bids for housing must be lodged.

The full new York allocations policy can be found by clicking here

Hidden in the proposed changes is a plan to scrap the “Good Tenants” system which allows existing tenants, with a good rent payment and behaviour record, to participate in the bid process for vacant properties in other parts of the City.

It was introduced about 15 years ago to help those tenants who, through no fault of their own, ended up being housed in a neighbourhood remote for their job, family or friends.

This could happen when new tenants were given no choice of location when allocations were made.

In some cases, neighbour problems prompted requests for transfers.They often found it impossible to agree anl exchange, particularly if they lived in a street or block with a poor reputation.

When considering the “good tenant” scheme  several councillors, at the time, argued that a mis-allocation should not be a “life sentence”. Some tenants found it impossible to find  a mutual exchange partner and “management transfers” were hard to get.

Including transfer requests in the letting process does not reduce the number of vacancies available. It may add a few days into the cycle as the first tenant moves to their new home. Their old tenancy though becomes immediately available for letting.

The only real argument in favour of the restriction offered by officials is administrative convenience.

Peoples well being should have a higher priority.

Interestingly this proposal was not included in the survey of opinion that the Council undertook with local tenant representative organisations.

Separately, the Council has said in response to a Freedom of information request that it cannot provide figures giving the number of applicants on the housing waiting list divided between those applying because of overcrowding and those existing tenants who are seeking to downsize.

They say only that the numbers on the waiting list by band currently are:

  • Bronze 408
  • Silver 866
  • Gold 206
  • Total 1480

Historical trend information is also not available.

We are slightly sceptical about the response.

If the authority does not have an accurate picture of the size of homes which are in greatest demand, then it can hardly justify spending tens of millions of pounds on its new Council house building programme.

York Council publishes list of sinners

Scam busters Jan 2016
Click for list

The York Council has published a list of individuals that it has had to take legal action against between 1st April and 30th September.

A report explains what action was taken and explains why cautions were issued in some cases.

The list includes

  • 6 cases where cafes breached Food safety and hygiene regulations and were prosecuted plus another 6 cases where cautions were issued
  • 3 cases under trading standards legislation
  • 3 more serious fraud cases
  • 134 cases where Council house tenants were prosecuted for breaches of tenancy conditions (mainly anti-social behaviour with costs awarded varying up to £357 per tenant)
  • 108 cases where evictions form Council properties was sought because of rent arrears.
  • 6 other cases where possession of a council house was sought including a case of non occupation

Perhaps surprisingly no mention is made of any Fixed Penalties Notices issued to dog owners who did not clean up after their pets. 

The report will be discussed on 19th January