City council faces £1 billion housing bill
CITY council houses face a £1 billion bill for repairs and maintenance, The Sentinel can reveal.
Stoke-on-Trent's 19,100 council homes each need an average investment of £28,626 to cover basic maintenance including replacing boilers, kitchens and bathrooms.
Spending of £2.5 million is needed to bring 1,072 council houses up to the decent homes standard.
The figures are revealed in a £120,000 survey of the state of council houses – obtained by The Sentinel under Freedom of Information laws after an appeal against the council's attempt to keep it secret.
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It reveals the scale of investment now needed after the council's decision to buy its housing stock from the Government and will spark debate over whether the authority should have instead sold its ageing properties to housing associations like many other councils.
The survey, which will set council spending plans for the next 30 years, also shows:
- Planned maintenance on things like boilers, kitchens, and roofs will cost £548 million – even if nothing goes wrong;
- An extra £225 million will be spent responding to requests for repairs and reports of damage;
- Costs like servicing central heating, cutting grass and repainting will cost £95 million;
- Spending of £36 million is needed for 'exceptional works' like curing damp, removing asbestos and remodelling houses to meet health and safety laws;
- Immediate investment of £1.8 million is needed to clear a backlog of 'catch-up' repairs, including £225,000 for cracked garden paths.
Further costs in adapting properties for disabled tenants and refitting empty properties will take the total bill to almost £1.2 billion.
Homes in Sneyd Green face the biggest planned repair bill at £32,000 per property, while the most money will be spent in Bentilee and Ubberley as it has the most properties.
The council says its housing stock is 'an asset, not a liability' and it will drive down costs by bidding for Government grants and targeting proactive investment in areas that will cut longer term bills.
But council rent is to increase by 3.86 per cent – or £2.50 a week – from April. It will continue increase over the coming years to help raise more cash for maintenance.
Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for housing, below left, said: "Buying our housing stock was the right thing to do because selling would have meant losing property for a lot less than it is worth.
"This will protect tenants and take advantage of an opportunity to reinvest rent in improving housing standards for the whole city."
Len Gibbs, director of Bentilee social landlord Epic Housing, has lobbied the council to give Epic more control over council properties.
He said: "If the council was to consider transferring some of the stock that requires the most catch-up repairs and investment it could use the money to develop housing options that don't exist or are not adequately provided for – including bungalows and one-bedroomed properties which will become more in demand because of welfare reforms."