Only 107 new affordable homes completed in York last year

The York Council continues to perform poorly in the provision of affordable homes in York. It has steadfastly refused to buy on the open market despite having a £15 million balance on its housing account.

In total, 345 additional homes were provided in the City during 2013/14. During the first 6 months of 2014/15, 235 homes were provided.

Housing completions 2014

click to enlarge

York Council homes sold under “right to buy”? (New Council homes completed)

  • 2010/11 = 10 (0)
  • 2011/12 = 6 (0)
  • 2012/13 = 24 (19)
  • 2013/14 = 53 (0)
  • 2014/15 (up to 1/12/14) = 39 (18)

Number on housing waiting list.

  • 2010/11 = 3294
  • 2011/12 = 3972
  • 2012/13 = 4692
  • 2013/14 = 2306 (eligibility change)
  • As at 20/01/15 = 1462

Over 2000 planning applications for housing have been approved during the last 18 months, with the vast majority for “brownfield” (previously developed) land

Liberal Democrat housing policy can be read here

York house building lags behind rest of country

Despite the economic recovery, York lagged behind the rest of the country in the number of new homes completed last year.Behind closed doors logo

A report published after a “behind closed doors” meeting held last week revealed that only 50 affordable homes were built in the City last year.

This is down from the 282 built during the last year of the Liberal Democrat led Council administration in 2010/2011.

It compares to the annual target of 790 new homes adopted by Labour Councillors following a “strategic market assessment”.

On average, 150 affordable homes had been built annually during the pervious 5 years.

Alarmingly the number of new affordable homes being added by the Council is now less than the number of Council houses being sold under “Right to Buy” legislation


RTB Applications RTB Sales


20 6
12/13 88


13/14 77


The Council has failed to invest the income from RTB sales effectively

The Council has also failed to use its substantial £12.86 million housing surplus to buy empty homes on the open market, and resolutely refuses to use the “New Homes Bonus” (money provided by the government to recognise house building success) on affordable homes.

Small wonder that Labour did not want these figures to be debated in public.

The only crumb of comfort was that – in line with the rest of the country – the total number of planning applications for new homes rose from 370 units in 2012 to 1578 last year, although a significant proportion of these were for specialist student flats.

Housing figures to be questioned as Tories try to “sack” cabinet member


Two questions have been tabled for Thursdays York Council meeting, which may shed some light on the demand for affordable housing in York.

The questions spring from the decision to remove over half the applicants who were registered on the waiting list in September.

The impact of this major decision – which was taken behind closed doors – will be questioned by Liberal Democrat Councillor Ann Reid.

She has tabled the following question,

“Does the decision to remove 2400 applicants from the Housing Waiting List, which means there are now officially fewer residents in housing need, mean there will be lower affordable house building targets?”

Last week the government announced that developers would, in future, not have to provide a fixed number of affordable units on developments of 10 homes or less.

In addition, Councils will be able to borrow money to acquire more social housing.

The Labour Leadership’s claim, that the additional homes that they plan to build in and around the City over the next 15 years would be occupied by local residents, is also being challenged.

The following question has been tabled.

“What proportion of the 22,000 additional homes that the Cabinet Member feels should be built during the next 15 years under Labour’s Local Plan proposals, does she believe will be occupied by York residents and their families and how many by inward migration?”

Meanwhile Conservative Councillors are trying to force the resignation from the Cabinet of Cllr Tracey Simpson Laing.

Acomb Council branch office closed by Councillor Simpson Laing

Acomb Council branch office closed by Councillor Simpson Laing

They have put down a motion of “no confidence“, but cite only the Councillors failure to provide additional affordable homes in the City.

While housing building rates over the last 3 years have been disappointing, and the failure of the Council to buy on the open market to supplement the rented stock lamentable, the more serious shortcomings of the present administration are in danger of being overlooked.

Labour only have themselves to blame though, as they tried a similar “no confidence” stunt in 2008.

House prices in York

Shelter has issued another report claiming that there are not enough “affordable” homes for families to buy in York.

This is probably true but not to the extent that is claimed.

As with much other research data the figures are bedevilled by the use of average income figures.

It matters little what percentage of properties on the market are “affordable”. The key figure is the gross number available.

The key to whether there are “enough” affordable homes for sale rests with much more simple question.

What income would a family with 2 children need to be able to afford to buy a 2 or 3 bedroomed property in the City?

Foxwood Lane to rent

Foxwood Lane to rent

Terrington Court to rent

Terrington Court to rent

Front Street to rent

Front Street to rent

Crombie Avenue for sale

Crombie Avenue for sale

Hatfield Walk to buy

Hatfield Walk to buy

Bramham Avenue to buy

Bramham Avenue to buy

There are numerous properties currently advertised for under £100,000 in York. Most are, however, flats and are unlikely to appeal to families. (click images right and left for details)

• The cheapest 2 bedroomed house is advertised at £112,500 (Bramham Avenue)

• A similar 2 bed terrace in Kingsway West is advertised for £116,995.

• The cheapest 3 bedroomed house is available in Hatfield Walk for £124,950.

• A 3 bedroomed property in Barkston Close will cost £130,000

• The cheapest 4 bedroomed property can be found in Crombie Avenue for £165,000.

• A 4 bedroomed bungalow in Coniston Close in Rawcliffe is advertised at £177,000

• The cheapest 5 bedroomed property can be found in Osbaldwick Lane for £200,000.


• On the rental market a 2 bed terrace on Front Street can be had for £495 pcm

• The cheapest 3 bedroomed property is in Terrington Court in Strensall

• The cheapest 4 bedroomed property available to rent can be found on Foxwood Lane at £750 pcm.

It is the price of (privately) rented property that is the biggest issue in York at present.

This is partly influenced by the boom in student lets.

A number of new student halls of residence have recently been given planning permission in the City including the Press site.

There has been a boom in planning applications this year with many brownfield sites set to produce many more homes than were included in the draft Local Plan assumptions.

Oliver House – £30,000 taxpayers bill for property empty for 18 months

It has become clear why the Council’s leadership were so reluctant to answer questions about the future of the former elderly person’s home at Oliver House in Bishophill at the last council meeting.

Oliver House York

A Freedom of Information response has revealed that the building is costing taxpayers nearly £2000 a month to keep empty.

The building has been unused since April 2012.

The only “occupants” are a firm called “ad hoc property management” who – in return for access – offer a “free” security service.

No rent or other income has been received for the property.

Discussions with the York CVS, which might have led to the building being sold to them, started in May 2012. They stalled several months ago.

The value of the prime site has been put at over £1 million with offers having apparently already been made, to the Council, by housing developers.

The Council has spent £30,000 over the last 18 months paying rates and on maintaining the empty property.

There are currently over 4500 people on the waiting list for social accommodation in the City. Many of these require single person accommodation

NB. The Guildhall has also now been empty for 8 months and is costing Council taxpayers around £160,000 a year in maintenance, rates and other costs.

195 new apartments for Hungate

A planning application for the next phase of the Hungate development has been submitted to the Council.

Click here for details

Hungate phase 2

The Foss side application – a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedroomed flats – is unexceptional save in one respect.

No offer is made of affordable units either on site or off site.

Instead a viability study is being prepared which will indicate “at a later date” what – if any – “affordable units” can be provided.

A precedent for a zero affordable contribution was established by a planning inspector who determined a York planning appeal recently.

The design of the flats proposed suggests that they would not address social housing needs anyway (although most of the waiting list is now made up of residents seeking 1 bedroomed accommodation).

If this means that payment to the Council, in lieu of homes, is planned then that could be a step forward.

As we have pointed out previously, there are many properties for sale in the City for around £100,000.

If the Council was a “cash in hand” purchaser they could buy up some of these and make an immediate impact on the housing waiting list.

The last batch of Hungate properties were relatively expensive (starting at over £200,000 for a small flat).

So the willingness of the developer to proceed with the next stage does provide further evidence that the country’s economic recovery is gaining momentum in York.