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Affordable Homes Plan Dependant on Property Give Away

Forty much needed affordable homes for older people may be built on the site of two former sheltered housing units. Vela Group wants to build the new bungalows and apartments on the sites of Oversteads House and Brandon House.

Durham County Council decided to close the two housing units which were built in the 1970s in November 2010, despite complaints from the twenty-six elderly residents who were still living there. All of them urged the council to re-think the decision but in the end they all had to move out. At the time the council claimed that they did not have the funds to carry out the upgrades that were needed at the two properties. They did hope that a private landlord or housing association would take over and it seems the Vela Group are prepared to spend money on renovation and property insurance but not on purchasing the property. They want the council to give them the properties for nothing.

Councillor Clive Robson, the council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Oversteads House and Brandon House struggled for a number of years with high management and maintenance costs and with demand for places low retaining the two schemes would have represented very poor value for money for the council. Transferring both schemes to a suitable housing provider will instead mean the sites can be redeveloped to create two modern, fit-for-purpose developments of affordable housing. In order for this to happen, we have to award the land at ‘nil’ cost but the need for affordable housing on the site far outweighs the price we could receive through the sale of land.”

The Vela Group have been promised at least £1.3m from the Homes and Communities Agency, and they want to build the affordable homes. However, the deal depends on the city council handing over the land free of charge. The decision is likely to be approved when a meeting is held in the next few weeks. If cabinet agrees to the transfer, Vela Group would be expected to submit a detailed planning application by April and explain how it plans to create jobs and training opportunities through the work.

Tenant ordered to clear garden by landlord

A female tenant from Cambridge has been ordered by her housing association landlord to clear her garden within two weeks or risk having everything seized.

The tenant, Liz Osborn, received a letter last week from the Luminus Group telling her to clear the garden directly underneath her living room window at the house she shares with her partner and two teenage children.

Luminus Group are widely known for their innovative approach to providing social housing, focusing on providing homes which are all covered by landlord insurance and building sustainable communities for today and for future generations. They sent the letter saying her garden items, such as plant pots, tables and chairs and a barbecue, were taking up far too much space in what is a communal area for use by all tenants.

Ms Osborn claims she had received permission for her vegetable patch and plant pots, she said “When they visited me 18 months ago to inspect a subsidence problem, I mentioned that we wanted to put a little vegetable patch underneath the window and put out a few flower pots. They said that it was fine because the vegetable patch would be under the window in a corner plot and not in anyone’s way, as would the flower pots.”

Ms Osborn also claims she had a similar problem with her satellite dish. One day after the letter arrived, an engineer turned up on behalf of Luminus wanting to take down her Sky dish and aerial.

Luminus replied by saying it is not appropriate for a single household to take over a communal area. They also provided proof that they had written to all tenants about Sky dishes as part of their response to the digital switchover. They plan to replace all communal television with a system that is compatible with the new digital changeover.