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.

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)

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.

New Homeshare service bringing younger and older people together for mutual benefit

An innovative new service that matches older homeowners with younger people in a home-sharing arrangement is coming to York.

Homeshare York is based on a national model, where a younger person provides 10 hours of support a week to an older householder in exchange for a room in their home. Homesharers could help with practical tasks, such as cleaning, shopping or cooking, as well as provide companionship and a reassuring overnight presence.

Homeshare is all about mutual benefit. The service enables older people to continue living independently with the support and companionship of a sharer. It also provides young professionals, or mature and postgraduate students struggling with rental costs, affordable accommodation in the city.

Similar services around the UK and internationally report significant benefits linked with intergenerational friendships arising from Homeshare matches. Participants have felt less isolated, experienced an increased sense of wellbeing and shared learning, too.

Homeshare York is a not-for-profit service with a monthly contribution made by the householder and homesharer to cover the cost of the matching process and ongoing support.

It offers a viable, cost-saving option for younger and older members of the community as the fees are considerably less than the equivalent cost of support (for the householder) or rental costs (for the homesharer).

To find out more or to see if you, or someone you know, could be eligible please visitwww.york.gov.uk/HomeshareYork or email homeshareyork@york.gov.uk

York Council got housing demand figures badly wrong

International migration forecast shows substantial reduction

The Council has finally released a consultants report into future house building requirements in the City. It is based on the latest 2016 population forecast produced by the Office of National Statistics

It shows a spectacular reduction on previous forecasts.

The report will be discussed by a Council working group next week, although the new figures have already been forwarded to planning inspectors.

In 2011 a LibDem Council had agreed an annual growth rate of 575 homes.

This was increased to a, wildly unsustainable, 1100 homes by an incoming Labour administration.

An incoming coalition administration in 2015 finally came up with a figure of 867 dwellings a year.

All have proved to be wildly inaccurate.

Unfortunately several green field sites have been lost already because of the muddle. The actual demand could have been catered for comfortably on brownfield (previously developed) sites

The new figures indicate that an additional 470 homes a year will be required in the period up to 2037. A high growth economy could increase this to 590 homes a year.

.. and that is the figure that some commentators have been advocating for the last 8 years and more.

Unfortunately old habits die hard, and the consultants say that, to deflate house prices (and values), a supply of 790 homes a year is required.

Forecast York housing growth figures Feb 2019

York Council says it has brought 17 empty homes back into use

The York Council claims to have brought 17 empty homes back into use during the year ending March 2018.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request the council said that it done so using “informal actions”. It had not resorted to compulsory purchase orders, empty dwelling management orders or enforced sales.

It says that the cost of taking the action was around £19,000.

The Council has a web site which offers advice on empty homes. You can also report any homes which you believe to be empty (anonymously if you wish)

Loans are available from the Council for the owners of empty property who want to bring them up to a living standard

The Councils Empty Property Strategy is set out in their Private Sector Housing Strategy 2016-2021.

Lowfields and commune housing

The Lowfields Playing Field Action Group have recorded an objection to plans to build 19 “communal living” homes on the Lowfields site. Although the Action Group states that it has no “in principle” objection to the development of this part of the site (they are mainly concerned about the loss of the nearby sports field and green open space) they have highlighted several issues.

One of these was a “behind closed doors” decision – only just published by the Council – to sell off 0.7 acres of land, to the “Yorspace” developers, for only £300,000. That would mean a plot cost of around £15,000 – far below the market value. A typical housing plot is that part of the City is currently fetching in excess of £50,000.

The decision was taken by a Council officer.

The papers to support he decision are very thin on detail. The Council can only legally sell at below market value if it can demonstrate that a lower priced sale “will facilitate the improvement of economic, environmental or social well-being of the area“.

Apparently the official was convinced that the shared ownership model being proposed would ensure that a continuing supply of low cost housing would result from the development.

But will it?

The papers don’t suggest that those who will occupy the homes, are required to be registered on the housing waiting list. There is no maximum income level mentioned for shareholders. There doesn’t seem to be any requirement for the investors to be York citizens or even UK residents.

As the homes turn over, it is unclear how investors in later years will be selected.

Housing subsidies are a controversial area. A more straight forward option would simply to have built more Council houses on the site (The Council’s housing debt ceiling has recently been lifted by the government).

But this is clearly an area where full transparency is needed. This would ensure that innovative house funding and ownership models are encouraged, while safeguarding the taxpayer’s interests. Sadly it appears that no York Councillor has had the wit or wisdom to press for all the facts to be made public.

The Action Group has also highlighted concerns about parking provision, security and nature conservation issues on the plans which can be viewed by clicking here

Lowfields Action Group planning objection Feb 2019

 

More rough sleeper beds available in York

More people sleeping rough in York can now safely bed down this winter as extra emergency beds are being offered whatever the weather until 28 February.

Earlier this year, senior councillors agreed that York should go above and beyond the national ‘severe weather scheme’. The 11 additional beds created bring the total emergency provision up to 29 beds. They are available in the winter months regardless of whether it’s freezing or not.

Besides these extra beds, the £193,000 extra funding secured for 2018/19 is also funding extra outreach workers to help rough sleepers address complex issues, especially around mental health.

Anyone found sleeping rough is encouraged to go to The Salvation Army’s new early intervention and prevention hub at 63 Lawrence Street, York YO10 3BU between 10am and 12 noon.

There, they will be allocated one of the city’s 29 emergency beds in keeping with the city’s No Second Night Out scheme. This means that no-one should have to sleep outside.

Five of the new emergency beds have been created at a council hostel and are being supported by volunteers from the YES Below Zero scheme. Rough sleepers’ dogs can also be brought into emergency accommodation – this has been the case since 2000.

People coming off the streets are placed in the city’s 101-bed supported lodgings. There, they are offered support and education to help address any of the issues that may have contributed to them becoming homeless. This includes referral to services for mental health or substance misuse and to train them for work and how to manage a tenancy.

Once that stage is successfully underway, they are allocated space in the city’s 90 independent accommodation units before, hopefully, supporting them into either private or affordable fully-independent homes.

Last year, we resettled 70 previously rough sleepers or single homeless people into permanent tenancies, and had 49 York households in our temporary accommodation – the lowest number since 2004.

Major York brownfield site gets development boost

City of York Council welcomes a decision by the Secretary of State to set new conditions which will help unlock the former British Sugar site and other unused brownfield sites in the city.

Taking into account York’s emerging Local Plan and the Upper and Nether Poppleton Neighbourhood Plan, the Minister of Housing, Communities and Local Government has said that allocating 20% affordable housing to the site off Boroughbridge Road is reasonable.

Because of the scale of the development, the Minister has recognised that delivering that percentage would not be viable in the initial phases of development. So the recommendation proposes that a minimum 3% provision would be made with additional affordable housing provided based on reassessment evidence for each phase.

Homelessness prevention in York gets £251k boost

A new grant of £251,000 to help reduce homelessness in 2019/20 has been awarded to City of York Council by the government.

The money will contribute to work to create safe and supported housing options for people with complex needs who are ready to stop rough sleeping and begin to move back into mainstream housing. This will include an increased use of our making every adult matter service, known as MEAM.

It will also be used to provide early help and prevention services as outlined in our Homelessness Strategy 2018-23 launched in June this year. We’ll be providing additional outreach support and use of a targeted approach to work with rough sleepers and single homeless people – some of whom have complex needs – to help them secure and remain in accommodation.