Properties bought by Salford town hall bosses and offered to households whose homes were earmarked to be demolished are to be rented out after being empty for three years. The eighteen properties were purchased by Salford City Council in March 2009 for a cost of £1m.
The homes were offered in a unique home-swap scheme to tenants whose own houses were to be bulldozed as part of the regeneration of the borough. However, not all tenants took up the offer and the council haCs since failed to sell them on the open market due to the problems that the housing market has suffered. The council also spent £1.5m renovating the two-bed terraces in various streets in Seedley.
The home-swap project was hailed as the answer to inner-city decline and the council bought 160 properties in total. They are now admitting that they over estimated the number needed and the empty houses, which are valued at £130,000, will now be let to private tenants after the council organise landlord insurance for the properties. Ultimately the council’s intention remains to sell them in the future when the market recovers, but until then they feel that letting the properties will balance the wishes of local residents with the financial responsibilities of the council.
Peter Connor, speaking for the council, said: “When it became apparent that the eighteen properties in question would not be needed to provide home-swaps for residents, they were offered to residents in other parts of the city who were being affected by demolition. When this did not result in them being taken up, the properties were offered for sale on the open market, but the current economic conditions meant that was not possible either. So the best solution is to let the eighteen properties which will ensure that the properties will generate money for the council.”
Council tenants, who are considered to be rich, may face a rent hike after it has come to light that thousands of them are earning in excess of £50,000 per year while living in a subsidised social housing property.
Westminster Council is Conservative run, and they have has asked the coalition for new powers which would see them introduce a sliding scale which links social housing rents to the income of the tenant. This comes after the council were shocked to find they had 2,200 social housing tenants who earn over £50,000-a-year, and in excess of 200 who are earning over £100,000. Some of these tenants even have other buy to let properties which they protect with landlord insurance and get extra income from rent.
Philippa Roe, Westminster’s cabinet member for finance said “There are people living in highly subsidised housing here who you could not describe as vulnerable any more. Some of these people have a second house in the country or a villa in Spain. Many of those on £100,000 or more are paying rents of £97 a week for a one bedroom flat, or £110 per week for a two bedroom place”
The council feel that a new formula needs to be applied which would see a tenant paying 35% or 40% of their net income on accommodation which is equal to the national average. Under the new proposal, a tenant on £50,000 per year would see their rent double. They also want to change the rule that says once someone has a council tenancy they are allowed to stay for life, and the property can be also be passed on to their children. The council want to change this because there are 17,000 families on the waiting list for a home in Westminster alone. Other authorities are waiting to see if the system is changed before following suit.
The new landlord of thousands of former council homes has made a promise to all their tenants to go on a £220 million pound spending spree. Neath Port Talbot Homes have also made a pledge to increase tenant involvement, promote welfare rights and make tackling antisocial behaviour on its estates a priority.
Nearly 400 Neath Port Talbot Council workers have been moved across to Neath Port Talbot Homes who took over responsibility for 94,000 council properties at the weekend. The move follows what was a controversial ballot of tenants in 2010 on whether or not the change should take place, with a view to bringing all council properties up to the Quality Standard of the Welsh Housing Assembly. Neath Port Talbot Homes are now fully responsible for both managing and maintaining the housing stock.
NPT Homes Chairman Roger Williams said “Tenants have placed a great deal of trust in us as a board and we are committed to delivering on all of the promises set out in the offer document.
“NPT Homes is now one of Wales’s largest social landlords. As a community housing mutual, tenants will have a real say on how the organisation is run and how together we can make a difference to the homes and the areas in which they live. We are looking forward to creating and sustaining great homes and great communities in the Neath Port Talbot area.”
NPT Homes, who will cover all the properties with landlord insurance, has said they will make the multi million pound investment over the next six years. The council staff, that has transferred, will remain in the existing offices until NPT Homes can find a suitable new location. The transfer has been classed as the most significant change to take place in the history of council housing in the Neath Port Talbot area.