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.

York Federation of Residents’ Associations folds

The York Federation of Residents’ Associations folded yesterday.

The decision was taken at a meeting which heard that it had been impossible to find a full slate of officers.

The decision doesn’t affect the many individual residents and tenants associations which operate successfully in many parts of the City.

It will, however, mean that a new process is required to allocate some centralised grant funding streams.

The Federation, which depended entirely on the efforts of volunteers, had struggled to deal with increasing regulatory requirements during recent months.

Some of its members had been critical of the lack of involvement on major policy changes being pursued by the Councils Housing Department.

NB. The Council has still not appointed a new contractor to carry on its “tenants choice” modernisation programmes

More cheap homes to buy – new scheme launched by York Council

Shared home ownership scheme

Following on from yesterdays news about a £112,500 flat being sold in Skeldergate, there is more good news for aspiring home owners in York today.

An innovative new scheme to help more people afford a home of their own in York is being launched!

City of York Council’s new shared ownership scheme invites applicants to find their own home on the open market or choose from four high quality newly-converted apartments to buy with the council.

In York, high demand and low supply has increased house prices beyond the reach of many residents. With average house prices nine times local average wages the scheme for 65 homes is run in partnership with Homes England until early 2021, to help eligible York residents get on to the property ladder.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • have a combined household income of less that £80,000 per year
  • be first time buyers, or former home owners, or military or ex military personnel
  • be unable to afford to purchase a suitable home at market value
  • not own a share of, or own any other property (unless a shared ownership home that you wish to move from)
  • Have a minimum 5% deposit and be able to cover the cost of buying a property
  • Have secured a mortgage offer.

Eligible people can choose a property from the open housing market. This must be:

  • within the price guidelines set out in an offer letter – usually for no more than £200,000
  • within the City of York boundary area
  • not a listed building or in a listed building
  • in good mortgage-able condition
  • without any previous shared ownership grant funding attached
  • priced in line with an independent valuation.

If eligible and interested, first get a mortgage offer from a lender then apply via www.helptobuy.gov.uk – run by Yorkshire Housing. Please state on your application that you wish to buy with City of York Council and your details will be passed on to us.

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Tough line taken on nuisance tenants

But Council fails to support “Good Tenants”

A tough line is being taken on council tenants whose anti-social behaviour has prompted York’s magistrates to close their homes.

The Community Safety Hub – which includes council and North Yorkshire Police officers – has been supported by local residents to help act to stop the pattern of anti-social behaviour at four York council homes.

As part of their tenancy agreement council tenants or their visitors must not act in a way which intimidates or disturbs their neighbours. To do so risks losing their tenancy.

An address at Dale Street, York has been closed up to prevent tenant Scott Berkley (aged 43 of Dale Street, York) from continuing to create nuisance. The court heard of his repeated loud shouting, swearing and verbal abuse of neighbours. Neighbours regularly reported needles discarded in the gardens and were disturbed by multiple visitors to the property every day and at all hours.

During a tenancy of less than two years, Mr Berkley was convicted three times for possession of drugs and on 14 August 2018 at York Magistrates Court he pleaded guilty to burglary and was sentenced to a Community Rehabilitation Order for 12 months and ordered to repay the victim £200.
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York Council moves to buy out Arclight and Robinson Court

Arclight

The York Council is expected to announce next month that it will buy out the York Housing Associations interest in the Arclight centre for rough sleepers. The centre is now run by “Changing Lives” and may be renamed as the Union Terrace Centre.

The Council is also set to buy the Robinson Court building in Walmgate. Robinson Court specialises in providing accommodation for homeless 16 – 21 year olds. It is currently also owned by the York Housing Association and is also managed by Changing Lives.

The cost, and funding source, for these purchases will be revealed when the agenda for the August meeting of the Councils Executive is published.

Both properties form part of York’s homeless alleviation strategy.

Separately the Council has announced the purchase of another home from the open market. A property in Hessay Place will be added to the pool of homes available on a shared ownership basis.

Tenants let down by Tories

It has emerged that the Councillor with responsibility for housing, failed to make provision for existing Council tenants, seeking a transfer, when she approved a new allocations policy last week.

She had been asked to continue the existing policy where existing tenants – with a good rent and behaviour record – could “bid” for a transfer to a vacant property as it became available.

The option has been available to tenants for over 20 years and addressed the needs of these living in properties, with the “correct” number of bedrooms, but who needed to move closer to jobs, relatives or friends.

It is alsoa lifeline for those who for those who had originally been allocated a property with bad neighbours and provided light at the end of the tunnel for anyone living in a block of flats with anti social neighbours.

Councillors are being urged to “call in” the decision for further consideration.