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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
The councillor at the centre of the row over David Freud’s comments about disabled people and the minimum wage owns a property in Tunbridge Wells, which he rents to people with learning disabilities via a charity. He receives housing benefit payments from the local authority.
At the Conservative party conference, Councillor David Scott told Lord Freud:
“The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage.
> You can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage to fully fit workers either – all those employers taking part in Workfare for example – the real something-for-nothing society : cheapskate employers.
“We had a young man who was keen to do gardening; now the only way we managed to get him to work was actually setting up a company for him, because as a director in a company we didn’t have to pay the minimum wage, we could actually give him the earnings from that.”
> In the wake of dubious self-employment schemes, will this be the next scam to reduce the unemployment figures ?
Become the director of your own company ! Earn £2 an hour !
Councillor Scott, along with his partner, is the director of or has an interest in several limited companies. They also own several properties in Tunbridge Wells.
One of these properties is a house in Cadogan Gardens, known as Scott Properties, of which Councillor Scott is both the joint owner and landlord.
According to Zoopla, the average value of a property in Cadogan Gardens is over half a million pounds.
Rooms in the house are ‘Rented to disabled persons directly or through Pepenbury, a registered charity.’
According to their website, Pepenbury:
“. . . provides high quality care and support for adults with a learning disability and complex needs, some of the most vulnerable people in society. We give them choice and control over how they live their lives and believe that every individual has the right to live an independent and rewarding life, whilst feeling safe and supported.”
Councillor Scott told Benefits and Work that the young man he told David Freud about has never lived at Cadogan Gardens, has never worked at any property owned by Councillor Scott and has also not worked at any property connected with Pepenbury.
Councillor Scott has also talked to his local newspaper about the issue, saying:
“If you have got some gardening work to be done you won’t pay someone for four hours when you could pay someone else for half an hour to do it. If you have a lawn in the garden and you employ a person who is doing it with support from somebody else there, you know you can employ them and it could cost you £10 to do it.
“If this person is going to take four hours to do that, would you be willing to pay £40? If you do not give them £40 you are not paying them minimum wage.”
When asked who the ‘we’ referred to in his discussion with Lord Freud was, Councillor Scott told us that it was:
“People working with my daughter when she was alive.”
Benefits and Work also contacted Pepenbury for a statement about whether the young man was one of their service users, but we have not yet received a response.
Source – Benefits & Work, 16 Oct 2014
A Stockton landlord must pay almost £1,000 after leaving his tenant without heating last winter.
Vivender Nath Blaggan left the house in Northcote Street, in Stockton, with a faulty boiler for three months during the coldest part of the year.
The 47-year-old, of Grange Road, in Stockton, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an abatement notice issued under section 80 the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and was fined £350, ordered to pay costs of £609.17 and a victim surcharge of £35.
The tenant contacted Stockton Council in January 2014 after repeatedly asking Mr Blaggan to arrange for its repair, when the heating failed in November 2013.
The council’s private sector housing team carried out an inspection at the property which confirmed there was a problem with the gas boiler.
The council served a notice served under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which gave Mr Blaggan a chance to carry out the necessary repairs.
However he failed to comply with the notice so the boiler was repaired by the council and legal action was taken, Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard.
In mitigation Mr Blaggan said that he had put temporary measures in place and provided the tenant with a fan heater and offered to pay for the extra electricity it would cost to run it.
He also said that he had arranged for repairs to be carried out but that they only lasted one week.
He had been advised he could obtain a free replacement boiler, but unfortunately the funding had been withdrawn before that could be arranged.
Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety, Councillor Steve Nelson said: “We are serious about tackling the problem of poor housing conditions in the private rented sector and we take the health and safety of private tenants very seriously, where conditions are not met then action will be taken.
“We hope that this case will send a clear message to private landlords that they have a responsibility to ensure their properties meet the necessary standards and failure to do so will not be tolerated.”
Stockton Council works with private sector landlords to help maintain and improve properties and operates a Landlord Accreditation Scheme which offers advice and assistance.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 29 July 2014
Part-time workers who are judged to be doing too little to find full-time work could have their Housing Benefit sanctioned by the government when Universal Credit comes into full force, according to Inside Housing.
The revelation is the latest in a long line of benefit betrayals to be inflicted on the poor by the Coalition government. The new development also means landlords stand to lose out.
The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to Inside Housing that under Universal Credit, where a tenant is working less than 35 hours per week at minimum wage and is not eligible for JSA or ESA, then the housing element can be sanctioned instead.
It seems clear that the government is determined that it should be able to take income away from everyone who is not being properly paid by their employer. Does this seem fair to you?
Under the present system…
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It is easy to get caught up in headlines and forget that the Coalition’s benefit reforms mean people you know will lose their homes.
You know what happens then? PEOPLE YOU KNOW START LOSING THEIR HOMES.
Vox Political was warning the world about this back in 2012 – nearly two years ago – saying the bedroom tax would put people on the streets while homes go empty and warning about the ‘Poll Tax revival plan to take away your home’. It gives me no pleasure at all to report that I was right.
This week I heard about two cases in my Mid Wales town. You may think that isn’t many, but this is a town with a population of less than 5,000 – and I haven’t heard about every case.
The first involves a family that has been living in the same council house for more than 30 years…
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Vulnerable children and adults with disabilities or high support needs may be forced to pay the Bedroom Tax, despite protestations to the contrary by Lord Freud, after it was revealed that creating more protections would cause ‘political embarrassment’.
Current rules mean some supported housing is protected from the Bedroom Tax, benefit cap and the effects of Universal Credit (if a working version ever arrives) – but this accommodation is not exempted if the landlord is not the care provider or when the landlord is a local authority.
This means that, for example, supported housing provider Habinteg has 1,200 wheelchair-accessible properties for the disabled – but only 516 of them are exempt from the benefit changes.
Lord Freud, who is minister for social security reform, said last April that the DWP was working to ensure all supported accommodation would be protected from what he called the “unintended consequences” of the government’s…
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