£1.9 million for Council house sales unused in York

The Council has been forced to reveal, in a response to a Freedom of Information request, how much it has received in income from “right to buy” Council housesales

Over the last 2 years the Council has received over £4 million from sales.

Part of this has to be returned to central government but £2.5 million was available for the Council to spend on replacement properties.

Right to buy sales in York

Right to buy sales in York

It has so far only committed to invest £520,624 on new properties (Mainly those scheduled for sites like Beckfield Lane).

The information was released only a day after the Council Leader had been forced to agree to consider whether some of the £13 million surplus on the housing account could be used to purchase properties on the open market.

Liberal Democrat Councillors have pointed out for months that, with the majority of applicants on the housing waiting list seeking single bedroomed accommodation, the quickest way to address their needs would be to purchase empty homes from the open market.

Instead of using the considerable resources available to the Council to provide additional social housing, the Councils Leadership have engaged in an ultimately pointless ramble about introducing a cap on private sector rent levels.

Such a “cap” would require Parliamentary approval and would not ultimately be of much help to the less well off, who have at least part of their rent paid through housing benefit

Lower rent levels could, therefore, reduce government expenditure on benefit payments but would also drive many “buy to let” landlords from the market (as they would be unable to repay their mortgages)

The Council Leader has also claimed that house prices have increased in York.

Although there are “hot spots” in the City and some growth in house prices over recent months, as the graph shows, prices have still not returned to their 2008 peak.

House price trends in York area

House price trends in York area

Housing growth in York – who will occupy?

Most additional homes constructed in York over the next 25 years will be occupied by inward migrants.


Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

The latest birth rate figures confirm that less than 10,000 homes are required over the next 25 years to meet the expected natural increase in the City’s population.

Labour however plans to build 22,000 (over the next 15 years) most of which will go to people not currently living in the City.

Yesterday developers announced a plan to build 1500 homes at Huntington on a green field location

The Council’s leadership have shot themselves in the foot claiming that with births exceeding deaths in the City new homes will be occupied by existing York residents.

That is clearly not the case.

Who would occupy 22,000 additional homes click to enlarge

Who would occupy 22,000 additional homes click to enlarge

Indeed average housing building rates, over the last 10 years, have more than equalled the natural growth in the City’s population.

The increase in population over the last decade has mainly been caused by higher life expectancy, although the population did get a boost as a result of the (unrepeatable) growth in Higher Education provision in the City.

The census returns indicate an average annual increase in the City’s population of 1691 during the last decade.

There is a housing problem in the City but it stems from high rent levels in the private sector. Even after taking into account housing benefit (rent rebates), renting a home in York is relatively expensive.

Potential owner occupiers can still buy 2 bedroomed homes from £120,000.

That should lead the Council to give the top priority to providing more Council and Housing Association rented homes in The City.

NB. The Council have now accepted that their quoted housing waiting list numbers have been wildly exaggerated for the last 2 years.

House completion numbers

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.

Labour fiddle York housing waiting list figures

Cabinet member orders that 2400 residents be taken off list

Earlier in the week a report, which is being presented to the York Council “Cabinet”, claimed that the numbers on the Housing waiting list had more than halved in 6 months.

click for source document
click for source document

The report showed that only 2420 are now registered on the list – down from 4692 at the end of March.

4692 was the figure quoted by Labour to justify their plans to build 22,000 additional homes over the next 15 years, mainly on green belt land next to the City.

No explanation was given for this phenomenal reduction which was simply labelled as a “decrease”.

It was all the more surprising as, since Labour took control of the Council the supply of new “affordable” homes, has tailed off.

It now turns out that the change has been achieved simply by taking people off the list who Labour Councillors feel are not in housing need.

These include all those in the so called “bronze” category.

This is another decision that has been taken without any consultation and behind closed doors. It has not been widely publicised since it was introduced about 4 weeks ago.

No doubt Labour hoped, nearer the next Council elections, to announce that they had “solved” York’s housing problems.

Electors are not so easily fooled.

Behind closed doors logo It is time that the Council ordered a public scrutiny review of the way in which the North Yorkshire housing waiting list has been massaged.

Some of the revised criteria that are now being applied will win general support (listed below).

Many however will find this new example of secrecy a sinister development.

The key changes are listed below.

  • Ensuring local people have priority by restricting the register to people who have a local connection
  •  Supporting balanced and sustainable communities by preventing people with a history of serious Anti-Social Behaviour      issues from qualifying for social housing
  •  Excluding homeowners who have no recognised housing need either for economic or social reasons
  •  Introducing a financial threshold for people who have a combined household income and/or capital and assets of £60,000 plus and who may be able to meet their own housing needs.  It is recognised some people, in particular the elderly, may need to move into specialist accommodation and alternative housing advice will be given to them
  •  Allocating properties to meet applicants’ assessed bedroom need
  •  To make the process fair, penalties to exclude persons from the register have been introduced. These include persons, who provide false information, deliberately withhold information or who have deliberately worsened their housing circumstances

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.