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£24 million Investment to Improve Council Houses

Published on: 11 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 13 Jan, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

Guildford council is planning to invest £24.5million in its social housing as it catches up on delayed repairs.

GBC’s Executive Advisory Board met on Monday night (10 January) to discuss improvements to the authority’s stock of more than 5,000 council homes.

A 4.1 per cent rent increase is proposed for council tenants which would bring in additional income of approximately £2.7 million in 2022-23.

According to council documents, 59 per cent of council tenants are in receipt of either housing benefit or Universal Credit and most will have their rent covered in full by these benefits.

Guildford is one of the last local authorities to fully transition over to Universal Credit, but council documents note that the majority of arrears cases are associated with households who have moved to the all-in-one benefit – making up 68 per cent of those in arrears.

More than 97 per cent of tenants are on social rents and the expected change to their weekly rent on average will be £3.95 for those in 1-bed properties, £4.73 for 2-bed and £5.36 in 3-bed properties.

The borough council has 5,251 council houses that the council acts as landlord to, and improvement works will include work to “design out” antisocial behaviour, including improvements to lighting and to car parks.

Also included will be replacing boilers and insulating properties, and improvements to fire doors.

The council’s interim executive head of exchequer, housing and development, Matt Gough, said: “This is an annual report which reflects some of the greatest changes that we’ve seen in social housing for many, many years.

“The impact of Grenfell is still being felt, the recommendations continue to develop, guidance is still coming forward.

“We’ve had new legislation, of which some is in place, some of which is about to be enacted.”

He confirmed that none of the social houses in Guildford had any cladding that had been flagged as a concern after the Grenfell fire in 2017 which killed 72 people.

Officers confirmed the usual figure for housing repairs was around £5m per year and the £24.5 illionm was a catch up figure due to delays in making improvements over the pandemic.

Last year the council received £207,607 from central government’s Supporting People Grant funding and documents note a further reduction is likely in future years.

Cllr Tony Rooth

Cllr Tony Rooth (Residents for Guildford and Villages, Pilgrims) said there was a risk of people “forgetting” about social housing outside of the people at the council tasked with looking after it.

He responded to comments in the officers’ report that the wider social housing sector is becoming increasingly commercial, with some housing associations aiming to minimise risk by being selective about who they house.

Cllr Rooth said: “It’s always worrying to me personally about comments that the wider social housing sector is becoming increasingly commercial [with] commercial rent.

“Although we have our own stock, unlike many other authorities, it’s always a challenge to maintain our stock as what I call fully, properly social housing stock.”

The borough council’s Executive will meet on Thursday, January 25.

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Responses to £24 million Investment to Improve Council Houses

  1. Andrew Balchin Reply

    January 11, 2022 at 5:32 pm

    Very laudable to spend this but can’t find £65,000 to keep toilets open in Guildford.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    January 11, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    But yet again this cut & paste article fails to actually analyse the announcement below the “council speak”.

    Is this £24 million to be spent in just one year? Or is it as usual, a commitment for several years catch up.
    What about new repairs this year? Not that you can get through by phone or email (web form) to report and get a response.

    The house rent is set by policy. Inflation plus 1 per cent, although I’ve had one councillor complain it is not “catching up” quickly enough (he couldn’t however define what the deficit was!).

    Then we have a few smoke screens such as the public toilets and there are also the storage garages on the estates. Their rent despite deplorable condition, is annually increase around 50 per cent more than controlled housing rent. Is this “catching up” again or is it simply that non-statutory services must be exploited during difficult times?

    We have yet to see anything, except a hint of large increases, in on/off street parking charges. No doubt these will be based upon qualitative arguments of reduced useage, rather than the 1/3 hour charging. After all, despite the long term policy to remove town centre parking, part of “modal shift”, and despite the distance from some parts of the borough to Guildford, it is still used to subsidised Park & Ride to £0.5 million in normal times.

    Hopefully a full and clear business case will explain the situation at the end of 2021.

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