Council plan to increase and keep their housing stock

Fears that Northumberland County Council will sell off social housing from HfN (Homes for Northumberland) if it took over its management, have been eased. If anything the council look set to be getting a bigger landlord insurance bill as they add more houses to those that they already own.

An in-principle deal will see the council take on both the management and maintenance of the social housing provider. At a recent residents meeting dozens of worried tenants articulated their fears to council leaders. Among the concerns raised by the tenants was the fear that the council will decide to sell the housing stock privately in the coming years. Residents also pointed out that when they switched to HfN, the council advised everyone that this was the best option. Now two years later, the county council is saying it will be better run if they ran it in-house, and everyone is worried that this too could change. The tenants requested a guarantee that the council will not take the properties back and then decide sell them on to another firm when they realise they can not cope with the extra 8,500 houses.

Councillor Gordon Castle said: “Selling off the housing stock is not on anyone’s agenda. Most of the people who work in the organisation would still be working in the organisation. For the most part, we would be retaining the vast majority of people that tenants are used to dealing with. It would still be called Homes for Northumberland and tenants would still contact the same telephone number and the same people.”

From 2012 each local authority will have to take on their own share of the national housing debt, which for Northumberland totals £94 million. Any company taking on the properties will need to take on the debt, which is much more than the value of the houses (currently estimated at £70million). The council have also assured all tenants that they will be at the heart of deciding what the rent money is spent on.

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