Category Archives: Housing in East Devon

Is there a housing crisis in East Devon? This section deals with all the different housing issues that I am involved with

EDDC Shared House in Exmouth

St Andrews Road SharedHouse 2016Hugo and Jill at 102 October 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Council opens door to new and innovative low energy social housing property

Single person ‘EnerPHit’ quality approved accommodation in Exmouth is designed to help reduce heating bills for tenants

Local councillors, residents, contractors and officers from East Devon District Council attended an informal event yesterday, Thursday 6 October 2016, to celebrate the official opening of the council’s newly completed and highly innovative shared housing property for six single people between 21 and 55 years of age, at 102 St Andrews Road in Exmouth.

What makes this Victorian style terraced house stand out from other types of single person accommodation, is that it has been refurbished to exacting low energy Passivhaus design principles, which have ensured that it meets required low energy standards for EnerPHit, a highly successful approach to refurbishing buildings so that they achieve specific energy values.

102 St Andrews Road is now officially certified as a Quality-Approved Passive House, having passed a number of stringent tests. The house has excellent thermal performance qualities, requiring very little energy to heat or cool it. This in turn will reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, which will in turn mean lower heating bills for the tenants.

It is the first time that the council has provided this type of accommodation for single people and the ground-breaking decision to create it came about in response to recent welfare and benefit changes, which highlighted an urgent need to tackle fuel poverty. It has underlined the council’s resolve to help its tenants reduce fuel consumption and associated heating bills and confirmed the council’s belief that there is a demand for this type of social housing in East Devon.

The house will provide occupants with six individual bedrooms, complete with en-suite shower rooms and access to a communal kitchen and dining room. Each bedroom is furnished with a single bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, small table and an easy chair. The kitchen is fitted out with basic cooking utensils – eg, pots and pans.

Communal areas within the property feature three pieces of artwork created by members of the local community. There is a montage of photographs, taken by young people involved with the council’s SWITCH project, which shows the Exmouth lifeboat and lifeboat tractor and a sand sculpture, created by young people on Exmouth beach. The other two are paintings done by a local community artist, Hayley Watson, who works closely with the council’s Community Development team on projects involving young people and the community group Link-in Together.

The refurbishment of the house has been undertaken by Mi-space, part of the Midas Group, who began work on the property in February 2016.

Councillor Jill Elson, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, welcomes the opening of this accommodation.

“A need was identified to provide housing for single people who find themselves vulnerable and insecure from their changing circumstances. The tenants will be offered a licence based on the tenancy agreement. The house will be supervised by our staff on a regular basis and any breaches of the agreement can be settled very quickly. We have provided these rooms with en suites and shared

areas to a high quality standard, that we would hope can be provided by the private sector. The house retrofitted sustainably to ensure low energy costs to the tenants.”

Amy Gilbert, Property and Asset Manager for East Devon District Council, said:

“We have had to work closely with our partners MiSpace on the delivery of this challenging project and, consequently, we have learnt a great deal in terms of producing our first Quality Approved Passivhaus property. I would like to extend my thanks to the team who have worked hard to deliver the project within a tight timeframe.

“We look forward to offering six individuals the opportunity to live in the property and who will benefit first hand from the technology that has been installed in it. We will be monitoring the house carefully in terms of savings that we are able to demonstrate and we look forward to the possibility of further projects that could be considered.”

The official definition of a Passivhaus, is a building, for which thermal comfort can be achieved solely

EDDC Home Safeguard – Letter to Exmouth Journal

Letter to Exmouth Journal for Thursday 28 July 2016

I was extremely concerned to read a highly misleading letter about East Devon District Council’s Home Safeguard service, which was published in last week’s Exmouth Journal. 

Tenants of East Devon District Council’s Sheltered Housing are not being ‘bullied’ or ‘forced’ to cover the cost of an alarm system. In fact, they have the option to move to accommodation that does not offer alarm support as a standard service. If they do choose to move, then we will give them priority on Devon Home Choice, the county’s online housing choice based letting system, so that a move can be facilitated more swiftly.

The assertion that tenants did not have a clause in their tenancy agreement regarding Home Safeguard and Support until recently is incorrect, as applicants have for many years been required to complete a Supported Housing Needs assessment form to prove that they are in need of support before a sheltered home can be allocated to them.

In addition, all tenants of sheltered housing are required to complete an annual assessment of their support needs, so they can decide (with the assistance of a Mobile Support Officer) on the level and type of support they need. Tenants are not required to have officers visit their home if they do not wish to. The assertion that the council is ‘infantilising their elderly residents’ is frankly incorrect.

The financial assessment we offer is carried out by the tenant with an independent advisor so there is no question of them having to go through this with a Housing Officer and the financial help for those in genuine need is open ended and will continue for as long as they need it.

East Devon’s Housing Service is fully committed to supporting people and communities in order that they can sustain their tenancies and to help people live independently for longer. We have many messages from our tenants that support this.

For example, Mrs R at Budleigh Salterton would like to say a huge thank you to the operator who dealt with her call on 31 March, when her husband went into cardiac arrest. He actually ‘died’ at the scene and CPR had to be performed until paramedics arrived and restarted his heart, He spent six days in an induced coma and, having had a defibrillator fitted, is slowly recovering. Mrs R says that without this alarm her husband would not have survived and she is very grateful.

Another person, whose elderly parent is one of our tenants, has written to express her gratitude, saying: “I emailed at 6pm yesterday with a query about my Father’s Home Safeguard Alarm service. I got a reply from the operator later, which gave me the information I needed and which was followed up later by a second email with further information. I was very impressed with both the prompt reply and the pleasant tone of her emails and felt it deserved comment (having been dealing with a range of people/organisations regarding my parents’ needs), this has been a rare beacon of good practice.”

I believe it would be helpful if people could  see exactly what the council’s charges are for our Home Safeguard and support services. Not forgetting the fact that for our sheltered housing tenants the service includes regular visits from a Mobile Support Officer (MSO). So here are the charges:

  • Alarm charge £3.70 per week – this covers the costs of the alarm equipment, which is installed in all our sheltered properties, as well as monitoring and responding to calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Housing management charge £3.50 per week (Covered by housing benefit for those in receipt of full housing benefit) – The housing management charge is for tasks done by the MSOs which help support each tenancy and maintain the fabric of our property and the communal areas. This could include for example: accompanied visits for new lettings, advice about aids and adaptations or helping with reporting repairs and monitoring progress.
  • Support charge £5.83 per week – this covers the personal service provided by our mobile support officers MSOs for issues not to do with a tenancy including, for example:  the calls and visits by the MSO, motivating and helping to maintain self care and personal hygiene, assistance with wellbeing matters and encouraging physical health or advice on welfare benefits and supporting you to manage your finances (if required).

In addition, East Devon has 2,200 private clients who have the alarm plus pendant(s) (£4.53 weekly for one pendant plus alarm or £5.53 weekly if using two pendants plus alarm or £5.03 per week for alarm, pendant and smoke detector. Please note that this service has no mobile support officer. 

 

Councillor Jill Elson, EDDC Cabinet Member for Sustainable Homes and Communities.

 

EDDC Housing

St Andrews Road Exm DSC_0181History

2013 – Housing Enabling Officer started to explore the possibility of the Council providing accommodation for single people in a shared house. The need for this kind of accommodation had been shown to exist in the Exmouth area.

June 2013 – proposal put to Housing Review Board and accepted

End of 2013 – suitable house in Exmouth (large Victorian terrace) identified and purchased with a view to refitting with six ensuite bedrooms, and shared kitchen and dining facilities.

2014/15 – careful thought went into the design for the project .  Always planned to refit to high thermal efficiency level but idea of retrofitting to equivalent of passivhaus standards developed later

Funding

We have used commuted sum monies from other developments in Exmouth and right to buy receipts

What we hope to achieve

  • A unit of shared accommodation which would set an example of high standards and good management for similar properties in the area such as private sector HMOs
  • Provision of bedroom/ensuite accommodation in a shared house for 6 people
  • Meeting demands for accommodation for single people of working age
  • Retrofitting to high thermal efficiency to keep bills etc to a minimum

How will accoSt Andrews Road SharedHouse 2016mmodation be allocated

  • Through Devon Home Choice and interview
  • Accommodation for single people aged approximately 20-55, with no support needs
  • Accommodation will be let on a licence and there will be clear house rules which must be followed

 

 

Government Changes to EDDC Rents

Brandon Lewis 2015Jill Elson as Cabinet Member for Sustainable Homes and Communities had a meeting with Brandon Lewis the Housing Minister. Present were Hugo Swire, Neil Parish and my opposite number at Mid Devon District Council and both Councils’ senior officers.

The Summer Budget proposed a 1% reduction in the Council rents which would probably be welcomed by our tenants but on average it is 82p per week. More seriously it means that in our 30 yr Business Plan on the Housing Revenue Account (ring fenced for housing) – we had to borrow £84.5 million to have more freedoms – we will lose over £7m.

EDDC Housing Press Release 30 July 2015

1% cut in rents means a £7 million cut in income for EDDC over next four years

Council calling on MPs to help

Government proposals for a 1% reduction in council house rents each year for the next four years means East Devon District Council faces a £7 million cut in its income by 2019/20.

The council is now asking to meet with its MPs Hugo Swire and Neil Parish to discuss the compulsory 1% rent cut which was announced in the Budget in June.

East Devon is landlord of 4,245 council homes, and its social rents, at less than £82 a week, are already well below equivalent affordable rents charged by most Registered Housing Providers.

Cllr Jill Elson, East Devon District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Homes and Communities, said that the £7 million cut in income over the next four years would hit the council’s plans to invest in maintaining its current properties and affect any plans to buy or build new council homes.

She said: “While a 1% reduction may seem good news for existing tenants, we may not be able to carry out the kind of maintenance on properties as we do now. We have invested £9 million each year on the repair and improvement of tenant’s homes over the last three years. It would also affect our future tenants too, as the £7 million rent income we are at risk of losing, equates to being able to provide 66 new affordable homes assuming £120,000 per home.”

The council, along with other local authorities who have housing stock, has a thirty year business plan to ensure that it is able to maintain its properties. The 1% rent cut could mean East Devon’s ring-fenced Housing Revenue Account would reduce by £77.2 million over the next three decades. This loss of income makes the business plan unviable.

The proposal is particularly unwelcome as the government required East Devon District Council to take on £84.5 million of debt in 2012 in return for freedoms and flexibilities to run its council housing free from government interference. The debt was based on the government’s assessment of income and expenditure over thirty years, and three years into that arrangement, the government is proposing to “move the goalposts”.

Cllr Elson is urging the Government to reconsider the policy. She said: “This is very short sighted and this policy has tough consequences on us as a council and on tenants too. We need to secure a more effective balance between the needs of present and future tenants in the longer term.”

The council is hoping to meet with MPs in the next few weeks.

EDDC Housing Rents

East Devon DC HousingStatement made to East Devon District Council Full Council meeting held on Wednesday 29 July 2015

STATEMENT FOR FULL COUNCIL 29TH JULY 2015

The July Budget Statement presented to the House of Commons contained rent reduction proposals that will affect the Housing Revenue Account 30 year Business Plan. I expect our tenants will welcome it. Housing Revenue Account finance was reformed in 2012 presenting a new financial deal for Council Housing. This scrapped the old subsidy system of us paying £6 million pounds per annum from tenants’ rents to be redistributed by the Treasury to other councils.[It must be noted that East Devon paid off its public works loan under John Major and did not transfer its housing into a housing association to pay off its debts. We then became debt free at that time. Since then the tenants had the opportunity to ask EDDC to transfer its housing stock into a Housing Association (Stock Options under Tony Blair). Tenants chose to stay with EDDC.]

This Council was not given a choice but to go forward on the scheme which meant we had to have a Public Works Loan for £84.5 million this was based on the asset value of the Housing Stock.   We were advised that the new system is based upon assumptions Government had made about rental income and expenditure required to maintain the stock over 30 years. Therefore, by Governments’ own calculations any changes in those assumptions will impact on the Council’s ability to maintain their housing stock.

Last year the Government adjusted the rental formula to use the Consumer Price Index rather than the higher Retail Price Index on which the self-financing was based. This was announced as a ten year rent setting policy. This damaged the business plan. The new formula was to have rent increases of CPI + 1% this was the previous RPI + ½% + £2 per week.

The Summer budget indicated that it would be compulsory to implement Government Rent policy of 1% rent reduction each year for 4 years – the intention being to reduce the Housing Benefit bill. This broke the CPI+1% formula that had just been introduced only 1 year ago.

The impact of this proposal of 1% reduction in rents for 4 years on our business plan is:

  • Housing Revenue Account Business Plan allowed for 2.5% increase so this effectively means a 3.5% reduction each year.
  • The cumulative effect by end of year 4 (2019/20) is a reduction in rent income of £7 million. (66 new affordable homes at £120,000 per home)
  • The estimated rent loss over the full 30 year business plan period is £77.2 million (equivalent to 643 New Homes at £120,000 per unit.
  • In 2025/26 our HRA Balance drops below the agreed minimum of £2 million
  • The balance does not reach an acceptable level until 2037/38 (when our debt is repaid) when it is projected to reach £5 million.
  • New build/acquisition will be curtailed – Right to Buy receipts may have to all returned to the Government.
  • Reductions may be required in maintenance programmes
  • Our average rent is £81.97 per week which is well below equivalent affordable rents charged by some Housing Associations.

I have requested an urgent meeting with our MP’s. Hugo Swire and Neil Parish. Hugo Swire has asked for a meeting with the Minister ASAP. We are meeting Neil Parish on Thursday 6th August 2015.

East Devon DC Housing

East Devon DC Housing

Affordable Housing being Built

Affordable Housing being Built

Report from Cllr Jill M Elson, EDDC Cabinet Member for Sustainable Homes and Communities

HOUSING

East Devon District Council is a Conservative rural council. It still owns its housing stock of just under 4300 homes. It was debt free until it had to pay its share of the ‘National Housing Debt’ and borrow £84.5 million The new freedoms and flexibilities have given us the opportunity to purchase more homes or build more, but we still cannot replace those bought under the Right to Buy with the new incentives. We are unable to meet the one house sold and one to replace because of the high cost of land and homes in East Devon. An average home in East Devon costs £266,781 and average wages are £24,200 per annum. We welcome the changes brought in by the coalition Government on the Housing Revenue Account and the ability to charge ‘Affordable Rents’.

East Devon set up a Housing Review Board made up of 5 Tenants, 5 Councillors and 2 Independent members to monitor the landlord responsibilities of the EDDC Housing Stock. This is a valuable committee and has several sub groups of Tenants and Councillors to meet the challenges of providing homes for people on low incomes or disabled.

EDDC spends over £8 million in the local economy by maintenance, upgrading and repairing tenant’s homes.

We have reduced our housing register from 4600 to 2600 over the last 3 years by investing in prevention work. This been achieved by using our own housing stock, encouraging downsizing and working in partnership with Housing Associations and Private Landlords.

We have collected over 99% of rents, despite the introduction of ‘bedroom tax’ and our tenants struggling with cost of living pressures

East Devon District Council has built 17 homes from its own budget on in-fill sites. These homes have reduced running costs on heating which makes them very affordable for our tenants. These homes have photovoltaic roof tiles, fully insulated, use of grey water and the use of ground heat pumps on 2 of them. We continue to review our stock and land that may be used to provide additional homes.

We have been in partnership with many Housing Associations to provide over 300 ‘affordable’ homes during the last 3 years. These have included social rented, shared equity, low cost market and affordable rents.

We have bought 11 homes ‘off the shelf’ from a developer that have now been let.

The new Town of Cranbrook now being developed will provide  1200 ‘Affordable’ homes and 10 ‘life time’ homes to be Social rent, affordable rent, shared equity and low cost market.

We have recently purchased  a house to change into bed sit accommodation due to increase in the number of single people we need to house. We are also purchasing a small block of flats in Exmouth

We continue to look out for opportunities to purchase in the ‘open market’ to increase our stock.