Category: Housing

Government Rejects Nottingham’s Bid for More Council Homes

Nottingham Labour believes in council housing, we want to build more, but the Conservatives are making it hard for us. The number of houses we have been able to deliver has been nowhere near the number that have been sold in recent years. The reasons for this are:

  • We are only allowed to use right to buy receipts to fund 30% of the cost of a scheme, the remainder must be funded through borrowing on the Housing Revenue Account which is in turn limited by central Government;
  • We are only allowed to spend the money on a very narrow range of housing types and it cannot be given to our ALMO Nottingham City Homes.
  • There is a very limited timescale to use the money and development sites can involve long lead in times to acquire, prepare and plan.

In the 2017 Autumn Statement, it was announced that local authorities with demand for new homes would be allowed to raise their Housing Revenue Account cap. However the Government has now announced that Nottingham will not be allowed to apply to raise the cap. The Conservatives have adopted a perverse set of criteria that has led to extraordinary situation where only 104 Councils can extend their borrowing cap – 91 of which are in the South, and the vast majority of which are Conservative controlled councils. We are left with the bizarre situation where Rushcliffe are eligible to extend their cap, despite the fact that we have 4 times the number of people on the housing waiting list and over 7 times the number of homelessness acceptances.

The Chartered Institute of Housing called for the suspension of the Right to Buy in order to support the delivery of the affordable homes the country needs. We will also have very soon the so called “voluntary” right to buy for housing association tenants being piloted in our region, potentially leading to further loss of social homes which are not being properly replaced. In the present housing crisis this Tory Government must consider the impact that the right to buy is having, and at the very least review the rules for the expenditure of right to buy receipts to make the “1-4-1” commitment a reality, as well as allowing councils like Nottingham to borrow to fund the council house building that we want to do.

Cllr Jane Urquhart
Portfolio Holder for Housing and Planning

Final details confirmed for licensing scheme to improve private rented housing in Nottingham

Nottingham Labour has delivered on its 2015 manifesto commitment to introduce a selective licencing scheme to improve the standards of accommodation in the private rented sector of our city.

Most of the standards we are asking landlords to follow are basic safety requirements that anyone would want for their home. These include: 

·         Ensuring that all gas installations and appliances are in a safe condition at all times and that an annual gas safety check is carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

·         Ensuring that electrical appliances made available in the house by them are kept in a safe condition and proper working order at all times.

·         Ensuring that the electrical installation in the house is kept safe and in proper working order at all times.

·         Ensuring that at all times a suitable fire detection and alarm system is installed in the house and is maintained in proper working order. 

·         Ensuring that a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room in the house which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

 Licences will cost landlords with Nottingham Standard accreditation £480, the equivalent of £1.85 a week per property over the five years of the scheme and £780, which equates to £3 a week if they haven’t got accreditation. Under current HMRC rules the licence could be classed as an allowable expense and may therefore reduce the tax liability for some landlords depending upon their individual circumstances.

This means there is no justification for rent increases by landlords and that the vast majority of landlords should absorb the licence fee and the cost of any necessary improvements to properties as part of the day-to-day costs of running of their business. Income from the licence fees will only go towards the cost of setting up, operating and delivering the schemes.

Selective licencing is good news for thousands of Nottingham’s private rented tenants, who will know what is expected of their landlord in terms of property management and standards. Rogue landlords will also be investigated and action taken.  

 

It is also good news for responsible landlords who are operating legitimately and complying with the law, as Nottingham’s reputation for providing quality housing increases.

 

Cllr Jane Urquhart
Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage.

/ In Housing / By Adam Volz / Comments Off on Final details confirmed for licensing scheme to improve private rented housing in Nottingham

Conservative Councillors voted against Nottingham Labour’s call for a pause to Universal Credit.

Conservative Councillors voted against Nottingham Labour’s motion calling on the Government to pause the rollout of Universal Credit before it hits our City, supporting a Government policy which is pushing more people into debt and homelessness.

Given the failures identified by pilot schemes and concerns raised by the Work and Pensions Committee, we have  urged the Government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit full service before it is imposed on the citizens of Nottingham.

Currently 2785 people in Nottingham are on Universal Credit, with the full service roll out to be imposed on Nottingham by 2022, which will affect nearly 60,000 city residents. Multiple failures have already been exposed by pilot schemes across the country, with places like Newcastle seeing one in five people waiting longer than six weeks to receive their benefits, and nearly 3000 people pushed into rent arrears as a result. Research has established that Universal Credit will eventually reach more than one in four working-age households and families of which more than half of these will be in work. Ultimately, the people likely to be most affected are disabled people including those with mental health problems and those in low-paid work.

The Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee has criticised the scheme, with the committee accusing the Government of withholding bad news on the scale of problems caused by Universal Credit, amid growing concern that the changes are forcing more people into debt and poverty.

We’ve only had a limited experience of Universal Credit so far in Nottingham but we’re already seeing rent arrears rising along with more debt problems. The Government needs to see sense and pause the full introduction of Universal Credit in Nottingham .

By voting against our motion, Conservative Councillors have shown disregard for the thousands of Nottingham people that will be made poorer as a result of Universal Credit.

Nottingham Labour approves fire sprinkler works despite governments broken promise on funding

We have approved £8.4 million worth of sprinkler installations and other safety measures in 13 high rise blocks in Nottingham City, despite the government breaking its promise to properly fund “whatever the experts tell us to make people safe”.

Following the tragic events in Grenfell earlier this year, Nottingham City Council worked with Nottingham City Homes, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue and local tenants to review all of the high rise blocks in Nottingham. All the blocks have current fire risk assessments and are fully compliant with current regulations. To reassure tenants that all was being done to make their buildings safe though, we took the decision to install sprinklers within the high rise blocks along with improvements to other safety measures.

Council leaders welcomed the promise by Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, who committed the government to doing all that was necessary to make people safe. As Housing Portfolio Holder, I wrote to the government asking for the funding for these safety improvements, and was dismayed when the government responded with a categorical no, describing the installation of sprinklers as “additional rather than essential”.

It is simply unbelievable that the Government has backtracked on its commitment to provide support to councils. In the same week as describing fire safety improvements for high rise blocks in Nottingham as additional, the government managed to find £100 million for the installation of sprinklers in the Houses of Parliament. The government again shows it simply has the wrong priorities.

We will go ahead despite the government breaking its promise to provide the funding. They are too important not to go ahead and we have taken the decision to use money from our capital budget. This however, will mean fewer new homes being built in Nottingham, despite the government saying it wants Councils building more and less money available to keep our existing 26,000 homes in good repair.

These are the consequences when government does not fairly fund local authorities.

Councillor Jane Urquhart,
Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage.

Abolish the Bedroom Tax Now

Nottingham Labour unanimously passed a motion at July’s Full Council Meeting calling for the abolition of the bedroom tax – while Conservative Councillors abstained.

The tax affects approximately 6,000 households in Nottingham, the vast majority of who are on low incomes and many who are disabled.

It is also ineffective. The tax was originally intended to free up properties for others but people are, understandably, staying put and seeing their income reduced rather than move away from friends and neighbours.

Nottingham City Council is faced with the absurd situation of opposing the tax, but being forced to implement it by the Conservative government.

Nottingham Labour has written to government miisters to demonstrate their objection to the tax; and continued to press our three local Labour MPs, Lilian Greenwood, Chris Leslie and Alex Norris to speak out against the tax in Parliament and Labour’s front bench members have also said they will raise the issue,

Following Theresa May’s failure to secure the majority she wanted in June, the Conservatives had to buy the votes of 10 DUP MPs for the sum of £1 billion. In their manifesto, the DUP were opposed to the bedroom tax so it is hoped that no there is no majority in Parliament for the bedroom tax it can be overturned.

Selective Licensing

Selective Licensing

High quality housing is a priority for Nottingham Labour, that’s why we have pledged to build 2500 new homes that Nottingham residents can afford to rent or buy. We also want to improve the standard of existing homes, that’s why we are planning to introduce selective licencing.

Consultation is currently taking place on a selective licencing scheme that Nottingham Labour Councillors hope will improve the quality of private rented housing in the City.  The scheme was proposed in reaction to 1000’s of complaints regarding poor quality and dangerous private rented housing.

Issues reported to Councillors have included pests such as cockroaches and rats, dangerous wiring, unhelpful or unresponsive landlords and a lack of safe escapes or smoke alarms.

We want to hear from people who live in private rented accommodation so we can get a clear idea of what conditions are like and then we can try and make improvements. The scheme will provide more help and protection to people who rent privately and experiencing problems that their landlord is not dealing with. Council staff will be on hand to ensure that privately rented houses are of a high standard and that all residents are living in safe conditions.

The cost to landlords is £460 over 5 years – which works out to just £1.80 per week if they sign up to a free accreditation service. This cost should not be shifted onto residents and we believe it is more than reasonable for landlords to cover this cost over 5 years to provide extra support.

The aim of this scheme is to ensure that all residents are living in safe, high quality housing and that all landlords reach the high standards set by many who already operate in Nottingham. It will also provide extra support and peace of mind to all residents who rent privately.

Landlords, tenants, letting agents, businesses and residents in the City and the surrounding area are invited to have their say on the proposed scheme by completing the online questionnaire at www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/selectivelicensing.

Alternatively, you can contact the Council for a printed version of the questionnaire by emailing selective.licensing@nottinghamcity.co.uk or calling 0115 876 2312. For more information, visit www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/qualityhousingforall. The consultation runs until 31 March 2017.

Cllr Jane Urquhart

Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing & Heritage

 

Supporting the Homeless

In November, Nottingham Labour announced that we had provided £100,000 of additional funding for the Winter Shelter in Nottingham that helps provide support and additional beds for rough sleepers through the coldest months.

In addition to that funding, Nottingham City Council and surrounding district Councils will benefit from £370,000 over the next two years to combat rough sleeping, thanks to work from Nottingham Labour Councillors.

Nottingham City Council will continue its partnership with Framework, who will also be providing £300,000 over the next 2 years, to help extend the street outreach services that currently operate in Nottingham city, in to surrounding areas such as Gedling and Broxtowe.

The Nottinghamshire Rough Sleeper Prevention Service will be established and it is hoped that by extending outreach services into areas that surround Nottingham City, more people who are homeless will be helped without needing to come into the City.

Due to reduced funding from the Tory Government, rough sleeping has doubled nationally and in Nottinghamshire it has tripled. We know that the government’s policies of austerity have caused many people to face unmanageable financial pressures and forced many people into homelessness.

That is why Nottingham Labour will continue to try and secure funding for projects such as the Winter Shelter and the Rough Sleeper Prevention Service and provide support to anyone who is facing homelessness.

We will continue to work with Framework and social housing staff to try and prevent people who are in danger of becoming homeless ending up on the streets. Nottingham Labour will also keep to our No Second Night Out pledge, which means that accommodation and support is guaranteed to anyone who has had to spend a night sleeping rough.