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£300m to get Swansea Council homes up to scratch

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 07, 2012

By Helen Keates

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SWANSEA Council is planning to spend more than £300 million over the next 10 years on the biggest upgrade to its council homes and their communities in a generation.

Proposals agreed by the Cabinet outlined the options for funding the work needed to improve the stock up to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard which included measures to make homes more energy efficient.

June Burtonshaw, Swansea Council's cabinet member for place, said: "Good quality homes that are energy efficient, affordable, secure and in safe communities are a key part of the council's anti-poverty agenda.

"Swansea Council already spends millions of pounds a year maintaining and improving its housing stock and this extra investment will help make all the difference to tenants over the coming years."

Mrs Burtonshaw said the new programme would help to safeguard and create jobs and would be a major boost to the local economy in difficult financial times.

The plans mean that funding would be available to improve all homes up to the standard by 2022. The standard states that properties should be in a good state of repair, safe and secure with modern kitchens and bathrooms. It also says that they should be located in safe and attractive environments. Yesterday the Post reported how a soldier home from Iraq had claimed the council house he was given in Cydach was worse than mud huts he had lived in in a war zone.

Terry Hewitt, 30, said walls had holes in and needed plastering and there was no gas and electricity when they were handed the keys. He said: "I've seen better mud huts in Iraq. Obviously coming from a military background I'm used to everything being immaculate, but the house in Clydach is not to a minimum standard — I was surprised."

Swansea Council said there had been some problems with the repairs, adding: "We've apologised and agreed to carry out more works at the property."

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  • Dooyah  |  December 11 2012, 6:54PM

    £300million - That's 1/3250th of a hunter/killer submarine.

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  • PJL1967  |  December 11 2012, 3:48PM

    Philosoraptor, the "normal maintenance budget", as you call it, is well known to be insufficient to bring homes up to the Governments own minimum required standard and, as StephenG11 suggests below, the £300m to be spent over the next ten years would in all probability include each years maintenance budget within the total £300m. However I agree with the rest of your comment. For those who are interested a detailed and comprehensive case for building a mass program of council housing has been made but the last Blair/Brown New Labour government and the current Coalition have foolishly chosen to ignore it even though it is the obvious solution to this country's housing, employment and economic problems. For more information see the House of Commons Council Housing Group report, 'Council Housing: Time to Invest Fair funding, investment and building council housing' and in particular chapter 6, 'Time for Council Housing – Invest in a mass programme of new council homes'. Here's a few pertinant quotes from the introduction of that report: "The private housing market is in crisis, and cannot deliver the homes we need". "The private sector banks, builders, landlords and landowners our housing strategy has relied on, only improve and build homes when they can do so profitably – and the speculation and profiteering by 'for profit' housing providers is now unravelling before our eyes". "Meanwhile for decades local authorities were prevented from building new council housing, existing council tenants were 'robbed' and homes and estates starved of investment". "Even before the credit crunch Registered Social Landlords (RSLs or housing associations), the government's preferred vehicle for housing deregulation and privatisation, failed to deliver the new homes needed". "Councils have been the solution historically in crises, when housing need was acute. In the current circumstances existing and new council housing must be at the heart of a new housebuilding drive". "Now is the time when decisive, direct government intervention can achieve both short and long term economic objectives, by reducing housing need, putting people back to work and bringing more rationality and balance to the housing market" "The costs of a large-scale programme of council homes would be less than the costs of not building them. Not building one million new council homes could cost £21.5 billion a year in the direct and indirect costs of homelessness alone" http://tinyurl.com/69ca8ry

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  • Stork  |  December 11 2012, 12:12PM

    Philosoraptor and weslangdon When I started off in the construction business, in the early 1960's. The accepted cost of a building plot, on a fairly decent sized group of houses, was about 20% of the final house selling price. Nowadays, that plot price is likely to be about 50%, sometimes more. That's for an "ordinary plot", I'm not talking about sea or rolling countryside views. If the Government really pushed for brownfield or edge of agricultural land ( which would not normally achieve planning permission ), then properties ( 3 bed ) " could", be built for as low as £60,000. Finally, Councils and Housing Associations do tend to waste money on their building and maintenance costs. It's like as if it's " someone else's" money with them.

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  • weslangdon  |  December 11 2012, 9:49AM

    Philospraptor; I agree with both your posts and gave them both the thumbs up the 1st one though needs expanding on. 25% of the reciepts for the sale of council houses under right to buy went straight back to Westminster, these would have made a significant difference in the ability to both repair and replace existing stock. On the 2nd post if the Council is providing the land too then the cost is much much less than £100k as the greatest cost in any house build is the purchase of land.

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  • Philosoraptor  |  December 10 2012, 8:12PM

    Interesting. If I say the normal maintenance budget should be paying for the repairs I get marked down, but if others say it then they get marked up. I am getting a feeling that I may not be liked here, oh well, suck the bitter taste of truth folks. It doesn't taste nice but this is the world we make for ourselves and it is going to stay that way for the foreseeable future because we will allow it to. It wouldn't cost £100,000 to build a good house if the council employed the staff needed and sourced the materials themselves and not from a 'preferred supplier' as politics loves to call it these days. By removing the contracting company and private building corporations there are great savings to be had, massive potential for local employment for which the wages filter back into the local economy and ofcourse, apartments would come even cheaper than the houses with machinery being being readily available for sale to developing nations to claw back a small percentage of the purchasing cost if desired. This won't happen because we cannot be bothered to persuade the powers that be to move away from the Thatcherite ideal, Total Capitalism. Whilst some things are best left to companies, others are not... and social housing is one the things companies should not be allowed to get near to at any stage of the development, maintenance and present operations stage. They charge too much, waste too much AND appear to hold little to no accountability for when things go wrong... despite THEIR screw ups we still burden the cost to fix it and if that is the case, we really should be running the show ourselves.

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  • weslangdon  |  December 07 2012, 6:04PM

    The Stock Transfer HA's can borrow money against the value of their housing stock too.

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  • Jiffy  |  December 07 2012, 5:36PM

    Buy to let landlords had their finger burnt. Too bad. They could have invested their money in Northern Rock and lost the lot. That's business. Too many greedy fools could only see £ signs and put their money into a business they knew nothing about. No different to those who lost money as Names at Lloyds or bought time share flats. I notice you're not a landlord despite having been involved in construction. There are plenty of private landlords doing very well in Swansea, I know of one who has 3 rented properties and has retired on the income from them.

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  • Jiffy  |  December 07 2012, 5:33PM

    Buy to let landlords had their finger burnt. Too bad. They could have invested their money in Northern Rock and lost the lot. That's business. Too many greedy fools could only see £ signs and put their money into a business they knew nothing about. No different to those who lost money as Names at Lloyds or bought time share flats. I notice you're not a landlord despite having been involved in construction. There are plenty of private landlords doing very well in Swansea, I know of one who has 3 rented properties and has retired on the income from them.

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  • PJL1967  |  December 07 2012, 5:18PM

    Stork, it's not the case that the WAG doesn't want Councils running social housing, the WAG were reluctant to hand over Public Housing to stock transfer bodies but were forced to by Westminster. Neither is it the case that these newly created stock transfer bodies (or HA's as you refer to them) can borrow almost unlimited funds! The reason they can afford the upgrades is because the are heavily subsidies with public money, albeit public money that does not show up on the Public Sector Borrowing Account, yet it all public money...

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  • weslangdon  |  December 07 2012, 5:06PM

    No Stork you are wrong; the pressure to remove Council Housing and place it with Housing Associations came from Gordon Brown and it was to do with their ability to borrow money "off the books." Not all local Authorities have struggled to maintain their stock, the better ones took their role seriously and spent Council tax reciepts on keeping the quality high, others did not and some even helped remove their stock to the HA's, not always legally or ethically. Council Housing is a Public Asset or it was until Thatcher flogged it off for pennies. Transferring Council Housing to HA's takes them away from democratic control because well meaning though many HA's are they are not democratic organisations, whereas we can always vote our Cllr's out.

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