York Council shifts only 10 shared ownership homes in 3 years

The York Council’s much hyped “shared ownership” programme has provided homes for only 10 families during the last 3 years.

Council marketing campaign

The figures are revealed in a response to a Freedom of Information request.

All the 10 homes were purchased on the open market. The scheme encourages residents to identify a property for sale before asking the Council to purchase it for them. The family then buys part of the property on a mortgage while renting the rest.  

The Council has decided to set the rent well below commercial levels, effectively providing the occupier with a taxpayer subsidy.

The only recorded discussion of the strategy, which will see a large proportion of the 600 new homes being built by the Council over the next few years allocated to shared ownership, came at a private meeting. click for details

The York Council admits that priority for shared ownership homes cannot be given to those on the housing waiting list. Nor can it restrict availability to existing York residents. It blames “Homes England” for these restrictions. These seem perverse restrictions given that the housing list is, and has been for many years, the accepted way of determining housing need and priority in the City.

The Council said that, “A key ambition (of shared ownership) is to support key workers by marketing housing for them. Key workers include teachers, health and social care workers, the police, the fire service and others working in the public sector”. It can only do so through a direct marketing campaign. It is unclear how many of the homes have gone to “key workers”

Slow going on “affordable” housing in York?

 Other social landlords have provided 30 shared ownership properties over the last 3 years. Of these, 29 have been “new build”.

By contrast, only 45 additional homes have been added to the Council housing stock since 2016.

Only 4 of these were purchased on the open market.

The open market purchase of homes, to supplement the rental stock, has been the flagship policy of the Liberal Democrats for over a decade. It only became a practical option 4 years ago when restrictions on the use of income from Council house sales were relaxed.

There are over 1700 applicants on the housing waiting list in York

Meanwhile the Council has taken on extra staff to manage its new build housing programme. They have so far failed to report how many shared ownership deals have been completed by the new team during the current financial year.

We think it is time for the Council to have a candid public debate about the demand for shared ownership and other forms of housing tenure in the City.

Progress in boosting York cheaper homes initiative

The Council has recently agreed to purchase several vacant homes in the City. It is part of a plan, tabled several years ago, by the LibDems which will see property bought on the open market to  ease the housing crisis.

Grange Lane

The funding to purchase empty homes will mainly come from the surplus accumulated over many years on the Council housing account.

The properties will be available on a part rent/part mortgage basis for lower paid local workers.

Typically schemes like this allow couples to get on the housing ladder and gradually move on to own the whole of the property.

Homes purchased recently include ones in Foxwood Lane, Kingsway West, Troutbeck, Teal Drive and Grange Lane

Several of the properties are former Council houses which were sold under “right to buy” legislation. They are a mixture of 2 and 3 bedroomed properties.

Initially the homes are likely to be offered to those on the housing waiting list and existing tenants.

The initiative will reduce pressure to build on greenfield sites.

An independent appraised of shared ownership can be found by clicking here

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.

Numbers sleeping rough in York still too high

A council report reveals that the authority missed its target for reducing the numbers of rough sleepers in the City. It had hoped to reduce the number to no more than 12 but at the test date last November 18 were found on the streets. This was the same number as a year previously. (NB. Some rough sleepers refused offers of assistance)

There was better news for other classes of homeless, with the number accepted for rehousing being 97 in the year an improvement on the target of 100.

In addition, preventative work was undertaken in 752 cases.

The main reasons for people becoming homeless were:

  1. Parental exclusion / family licence terminations remain a major cause of homelessness
  2. The number of relationship breakdowns due to violence
  3. Homelessness because of the loss of Assured Shorthold Tenancies remains high.

The housing waiting list remains stable with, at 31/3/17, 1596 York people registered with North Yorkshire Home Choice.

306 Council houses became vacant last year in the City. 53 additional properties were built for social rent.

The report reveals that there are now 7 refugee Syrian families living in private rented accommodation in the City

The Council says that one of its housing priorities is to prioritise a “reduction in rough sleeping, street drinking and begging (in conjunction with Community Safety Hub) and explore need for day facilities and night shelter in light of rising numbers of rough sleepers and associated street drinking and begging”.

Long time coming but finally York Council set to buy empty homes to ease housing problems

We’ve told the York Council on many occasions over the last seven years that it should use some of the profit on its housing account to buy empty properties on the open market.

Today it seems that action is imminent.

In a media release the Council says,

 “A request for £2.76 million to match-fund a grant allocation to create 65 shared ownership homes will be made to City of York Council’s executive on 18 May.

The funding is being requested from the council’s Housing Revenue Account capital to match grant funding of £2.76m from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

The bid to the HCA was made in September 2016 to support the delivery of the homes between 2017 and 2020. With an average grant rate of £42,500 per home, the programme aims to help address the affordable housing needs of the city.

Pending the executive’s decision, the 65 homes – depending on market values – will be bought from the open market and/or from new-build residential developments.

The shared ownership scheme aims to help people in housing need but who cannot afford to buy a home on the open market. Under a shared ownership lease the leaseholder buys a share of the property and pays rent on the remainder owned by the landlord, City of York Council.

Martin Farran, City of York Council’s director of adult social care and housing, said: “Through this scheme, we aim to offer more affordable housing options to people in York who can’t afford to buy, without help, from the open market. It will also increase our interest in housing stock across the city to benefit future generations of shared owners”.

The news comes on the same day as the Council confirmed that there are still 1000 people on the waiting list homes in the York area. Most are seeking a different sized property to rent.

It is unclear how many of them will be able to participate in a shared ownership arrangement.

This is how much it will cost you to take advantage of this scheme

Tories plan to scrap current housing waiting list allocation system

No choice to be offered to those in housing need

Choice based lettingsOn 17 October the York Council is likely to authorise changes to the current housing registrations service.

City of York Council operates a choice based lettings (CBL) system for applicants to bid for affordable rented homes across North Yorkshire and York. The system was introduced by the LibDem administration in 2011.

The Council says that “a recent review of it has identified changes that would streamline processes for applicants and officers. The detailed consultation and review included involving staff from multiple council services as well as visits to other local authorities that use other application or bidding systems. The council also conducted two consultations with customers on the current system.

A number of changes have already taken place including streamlining administration, interviewing new applicants and updating housing advice.

The Executive Member will be asked to give officers authority to work with the North Yorkshire Home Choice partnership to discuss changing from a choice based lettings (advertising and bidding) system to an officer allocation system based on customer preference, and also to start discussions about future changes to the allocations and letting policy.

Council U turn on housing policy sees them set to buy new Council homes on open market

It looks like the York Council will finally take our advice and buy flats on the open market to increase the availability of Council homes in the City.

We have long advocated using the substantial surplus that the Council holds on its revenue account to buy empty properties on the open market. Labour has resisted this over the last 3 years but finally seem to have some to their senses.

They paln to buy eight two-bedroomed and six one-bedroomed flats which are being constructed on Lindsay Avenue. The flats will have easy access to shops, bus routes, GPs and a Post Office. The Council says that the homes will be offered as downsizing opportunities for tenants aged over 55.

However over 50% of the people on the housing waiting list are single people seeking one bedroomed accommodation.

The Council should buy existing empty properties on the open market to help these residents (many of whom live in larger social housing properties which would be freed up for families).

Under the last Labour Government Council house building reached a, post second world war, low.

Under the last Labour Government Council house building reached a, post second world war, low.

Other downsizing schemes with housing association partners include those in Tang Hall, Huntington and Acomb, plus a further scheme completing in June 2014 at Water Lane, Clifton. This is in addition to a new council house building programme, of which sites at Beckfield Lane, Chaloners Road, Fenwick Street and Newbury Avenue are proposing apartments for people downsizing.

This new site on the corner of Lindsey Avenue and Sowerby Road has been marketed since summer 2012 as a development opportunity. With no interest expressed in running the former public house as a business, or the site as a commercial development opportunity, the site was auctioned in September 2013 and was purchased by York-based RHW Developments which has experience in delivering affordable housing.

The planning application was submitted in late March 2014, the outcome is expected in June 2014 with building work to start this summer with the completed homes ready in the summer 2015. If approved, the acquisition price would be paid in stages during construction.

The Council has declined to reveal how much it is paying for each property.

York social housing waiting list details

The York Council has released details of the make up of the social housing waiting list.

The list consists of mainly younger people.

2333 applicants  

Ages:

16-17

5

18-24

383

25-31

468

32-38

388

39-45

299

46-52

255

53-59

214

60-64

87

65-69

97

70-74

58

75-79

35

80+

44

Not surprisingly the vast majority describe themselves as “white British”. No doubt UKIP will be disappointed to find that only one Rumanian national has registered on the list!

(more…)

York Council house rents up 5% despite record surplus

Despite having a record high £13 million surplus on the housing account, Labour plan to increase rent levels by 5%.in April.

Bramham Road flats

The Council have stubbornly refused to use the surplus to buy additional homes on the open market.

Meanwhile new figures released by the Council confirm that most of the 2333 people registered on the housing waiting list are single and are seeking one bedroomed accommodation.

856 of these are aged under 30.

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.