Tagged: council houses

Durham County Council sells its last 18,400 homes to not-for-profit housing group

Thousands of former council tenants have a new landlord today after the North-East’s largest local authority sold its last 18,400 homes to a new independent group.

Durham County Council sealed the £114m deal with the newly formed, not-for-profit County Durham Housing Group (CDHG) late last night (Monday).

Supporters say the historic transfer will pave the way for £800m of investment in the homes over the next 30 years and the £80m construction of 700 new properties within the next seven, plus the cancellation of the council’s remaining housing debt of £130m.

CDHG chief executive Bill Fullen said there was an opportunity to create something “really significant” in County Durham, while council chief executive George Garlick said communities across the county would be regenerated.

CDHG now owns and manages 18,400 homes across the former Wear Valley, Easington and Durham City districts.

It comprises three new landlords, or Community Benefit Societies Dale and Valley Homes and East Durham Homes, previously Arms-Length Management Organisations (Almos) responsible for managing council-owned houses, and Durham City Homes, previously an in-house council service.

 The switch was agreed following a ballot of the 22,000 tenants last year. Just over half voted, with 82 per cent of those supporting the transfer.

It went ahead despite delays and a government deadline having been missed.

Sites for the new homes have been identified, mostly around existing estates, but details have not yet been released.

Mr Fullen said:

“The results of last summer’s ballot told us that tenants wanted to see change and that’s exactly as a group what we set out to achieve.

“I want people to say that they are proud to call Durham home and that doesn’t just come from bricks and mortar.

“It’s about improving lives beyond the garden gate and I’m confident that by working with Dale and Valley Homes, Durham City Homes and East Durham Homes we can achieve this together.”

Mr Garlick added:

“The completion of the transfer allows for millions of pounds to be invested in current social housing as well as building new homes, helping to regenerate communities across the county.”

For more information, visit countydurhamhousinggroup.co.uk

Durham City Homes can now be contacted via durhamcityhomes.co.uk, 0800-068-0013 or email: admin@durhamcityhomes.co.uk

Dale and Valley Homes’ and East Durham Homes’ contact details remain unchanged.

Council houses in other areas of the county have already been transferred to landlords Cestria Community Housing, Derwentside Homes, Livin and Teesdale Housing Association.

Last night’s (Monday) deal was signed hours before the Conservatives pledged to extend the right-to-buy to 1.3m housing association tenants.

Source – Northern Echo, 14 Apr 2015

Council announces proposal to build own housing to help prevent migration

Plans to revive rural communities by spending £5m on building new council houses have been criticised as having a high risk factor.

A lack of affordable homes has been identified as a contributing factor to young people moving away from Yorkshire Dales communities – and has prompted a campaign by leader of Richmondshire District Council, John Blackie, to provide cheap new homes and jobs.

Schools across Richmondshire have reported a fall in school roll figures, so house building has been proposed as a means of persuading families to stay in the Dales.

Cllr Blackie has organised a conference for key partners including the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, housing associations, local enterprise partnerships, and health and education representatives, to take place at Tennants, Leyburn, on Wednesday, November 19 from 9am.

But Cllr Fleur Butler, leader of the Conservative opposition group on the council, said the £5m proposal was a huge risk to council tenants, whose rent feeds the fund.

She told the full council meeting that she was concerned the council would be taking on more debt when cuts still had to be made and she felt more work should be done to work with existing landlord partners.

 > And probably sell off existing council housing stock while they’re about it – it’s the Tory way.

To spend £5m from the housing revenue account will put enormous risk on to our tenants whose rents must rise should the council’s proposed own social landlord company fail to repay its debts,” she said.

Why isn’t Cllr Blackie instead working better with our registered social landlords? What evidence does he have for partnership failure, and why on earth should we go down the route of being our own landlord, when we already work with several?”

Cllr Blackie said the greater risk was to lose young families in our rural and deeply rural communities – and that he did intend to continue to work with social landlords.

He said:

We are intending to take the decision to authorise Richmondshire District Council to return to the role it occupied for many years as a provider, by purchasing in the housing market, or builder of council houses.

“We intend to set up what is basically a registered social landlord company.

“The Government has relaxed its stand on councils across the country legally doing this, and we have funds available to finance the programme.”

Cllr Blackie confirmed the funds would flow from a £5m borrowing facility within the housing revenue account.

This is a really important issue and on November 18 the council’s corporate board will debate the proposal,” he said.

Cllr Butler said she was not completely against the idea of the council building its own stock, but first wanted to examine why so many people were leaving the Dales.

Source –  Northern Echo,  23 Oct 2014