Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Council ploughs over £50million into housing stock

Leeds City Council has committed to invest over £53million in its housing stock over the next year.

As part of the capital programme, worth £53million, the council will continue the already successful Decency Standard Programme and also install new heating systems and adaptations.

almost £18million will be spent on further upgrading council homes to the Decent Homes Standard, building on the work which has seen 98% of council homes brought up to this standard. In addition, just over £8million will be committed on moving housing stock towards the Decency Plus Standard, which upgrades both a kitchen and a bathroom rather than just one or the other.

Fuel poverty remains a high priority for the council and this year over £6million will be spent on upgrading heating systems and improving the insulation across homes.

With a successful programme of adaptations over the last couple of years, this is set to continue with just over £5.8million to be spent for residents with disabilities to allow them to remain in their own homes, rather than having to move to supported accommodation.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said:


“It is very important that we continue to ensure that our housing stock is up to a good standard, and this includes upgrading heating, and making adaptations to people’s houses to make them comfortable to live in.

“Even amongst the tough climate that we have found ourselves in the last year or so we are still striving for higher standards for our housing stock.

“The £53million that we have allocated to improve homes across the city is fantastic and will really allow us to tackle some key problems and improve on work we have already undertaken in previous years.

“Not only do we want to improve homes, but we also want to ensure we are making the most of all our council owned buildings, and that includes bringing empty properties back into use and ensuring they meet the Decent Standard.

“We also want to make sure that all our properties meet a high security standard, so will be concentrating on changing the old euro barrel locks to a more modern and effective lock – we have already started this replacement programme with a number of areas across the city."


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450
Email: Catherine.milburn@leeds.gov.uk

Trail of errors leads to waste fine

A South Leeds builder dug himself into a hole after illegally dumping waste while converting a cellar.

Instead of using an organisation licensed to move and dispose of waste, Mohammed Farooq from Beeston allowed temporary employees to dump rubble in local bin yards.

His failure to comply with section 34 of Environmental Protection Act 1990 meant Farooq was handed a £700 fine by Leeds magistrates last week. He was also ordered to pay costs of £750 and a victim surcharge of £15.

The case came to light on 9 January this year when a local police officer spotted an unusually large pile of rubble in a bin yard on Harlech Crescent, Beeston.

Finding out where the rubble came from proved all too easy for the officer as the culprits had left a trail. The muddy footprints led the officer to a house nearby.

Having been tipped off by police, environmental enforcement officers from the council stepped in to investigate the dubious waste disposal methods.

The innocent home owners had employed Farooq to dig out their cellar and paid him for skips to take away the waste. Farooq admitted to employing two temporary workers to remove the waste but denied any knowledge of them tipping the soil and debris illegally.

As Farooq could not produce any documentation to prove he’d used a registered waste carrier to remove the waste he was in breach of his legal duty of care and prosecuted.

Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment said:

“Its important to do your homework when employing anyone to renovate your home. This will make sure you don’t fall foul of rogues or cowboys. You need to check that they comply with their waste responsibilities as well as making sure they do a good job.

“Disposing waste is not a trivial matter. When legal duties are ignored it can have a seriously detrimental impact on local communities and the environment and we won’t tolerate it.”

Unfortunately for the home owners, Farooq’s failure to deal with the building site waste left them out of pocket. They’d already paid in good faith for Farooq to deal with the rubble appropriately, but they also generously paid to clean up the bin yards so local residents wouldn’t be inconvenienced.

To avoid being in a similar situation, you should ask to see receipts or the waste carrier’s licence so rubbish from your home renovation isn’t fly-tipped.

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact:
Amanda Burns, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1577
email: amanda.l.burns@leeds.gov.uk

New affordable housing website a real success

A newly launched website dedicated to helping people find affordable housing has seen unprecedented traffic from landlords and people searching for new accommodation.

The letshelpyou.co.uk website offers a free service to both landlords and tenants and is specifically aimed at the affordable end of the housing market and people in receipt of housing benefits, although the site is available for anyone to use.

The site has a built in housing allowance calculator which can tell benefit recipients the numbers of bedrooms they are entitled to according to their circumstances and therefore makes the search a lot more affective. Rents are compared to the maximum housing benefit for that type of dwelling, showing the rent in green if it is equal to, or below, the maximum, and in red if the rent is more than the maximum.

The service has also recently launched on Sky and Virgin TV to allow people without home internet access the same opportunity to search for a property by type and location.

Leeds landlords Linda and Peter Robinson found a new tenant within a week of advertising on the Letshelpyou website. Up to then the property had been unoccupied for three months although it was listed with a lettings agent.

Linda was delighted with the service and said:

“Our new tenant contacted us through Leeds council housing options service, which have been able to assist with the property bond and even direct rental payments. We found the website easy to use and we were thoroughly delighted to sign our new tenant so quickly. We shall certainly use the website from now on when we are looking for tenants.”

Jamie-Lee Lawrence, has recently used the website and has now been re-housed in the Bramley area, said:

“My previous accommodation was unsuitable because of damp and mould problems. I started to bid for properties through the council’s choice-based lettings scheme knowing it can take a while for a successful bid, as well as trawling estate agents and other websites, which all takes up a lot of time. My housing options advisor then showed me this new way to search through the Letshelpyou website and within days I was viewing the property and, with the help of housing options, I signed and moved in within three days. I’m now living near to family and friends and my daughter can have her own bedroom without the threat of repeated bouts of illness due to damp and mouldy conditions”.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said:

“Being able to help people find sustainable and affordable housing is a priority in reducing and preventing homelessness. The Letshelpyou website offers an additional and instant search tool bringing hundreds of properties together across the whole of the West Yorkshire region. Properties are added daily so there is always something new to consider, and customers are finding it easy and convenient to use either at home, the library, or from our public access PCs.”

Notes to editors:

www.letshelpyou.co.uk is a regional partnership project formed by all five West Yorkshire local authorities through funding from the Department of Work and Pensions to support the implementation of the housing benefit reforms in 2011/12. Essentially the partnership set out to provide a self-service option for those seeking affordable accommodation in the private rental sector, and as an alternative to reliance on the housing options bidding process for social housing and council managed properties. By launching this interactive website, landlords can advertise their property vacancies, and tenants can search and respond independently, without recourse to local authority intervention.

• Launched in February 2012 the website currently lists 748 properties with 541 registered landlords and over 2,000 tenant registrations, Properties are added daily improving tenants search potential and decreasing non-occupancy time for landlords. (Registrations and properties increase daily, please see contact below for up to date figures).

• In addition to the website, and digital TV the Letshelpyou service is being developed for delivery across multiple platforms – mobile web, smartphones and game consoles – ensuring the highest possible take-up amongst users, including those typically regarded as digitally excluded.

• The five West Yorkshire local authorities – Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees, and Calderdale – have a joint population of over 2 million and changes to LHA are expected to affect in excess of 40,000 housing benefit recipients in the region.

• To find out more go to www.letshelpyou.co.uk. Or contact billie.gill@letshelpyou.co.uk, tel 0113 815 2249.


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450
Email: Catherine.milburn@leeds.gov.uk