Department for Communities and Local Government response to SAVED(Usap) representative,
Christopher Smith, with regards to Shelter Housing in the Stroud Area.
Dear Mr Smith,
Thank you for your emails of 1 and 18 November 2015 in response to my reply to your original correspondence of 13 October about the future of sheltered housing in Stroud and the fact the council are considering redevelopment of a number of sites. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding, which is due to the large amount of correspondence received by Government.As previously stated Government policy is to avoid demolition of the existing stock where practicable; however there is a pressing need to increase the housing supply and also to regenerate some sites where the existing stock is no longer suitable. This offers an opportunity to construct more new homes, to an improved design standard. This is reflected in the National Planning Policy Framework that makes it clear that local authorities should plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends and the needs of different groups, including older people and sheltered housing. When developing proposals and options to regenerate estates, we believe that local authorities should engage and consult extensively with their local communities. It is our experience that local authorities do take their consultation obligations seriously; therefore we are surprised to learn your local authority has failed to do so. We would recommend that you contact them for more details about the proposals and the options available to your members.We appreciate the point you raise about the age of the affected group of the regeneration and understand that moving at any time of life is stressful and especially so for older people who may have complex needs. We would recommend that your members contact the local authority to discuss the options available and their particular circumstances.
We understand from your email that some of your members’ homes suffer from damp and mould Local authority landlords are obliged, by law, to maintain the structure and exterior of their properties, and to keep in repair and proper working order the sanitation, water, gas and electricity installations. We know that getting good quality repairs done quickly is one of tenants’ top concerns and the Homes and Communities Agency’s national Standards require social landlords “to provide a cost-effective repairs and maintenance service to homes and communal areas that responds to the needs of, and offers choices to, tenants, and has the objective of completing repairs and improvements ‘right first time’”.
The Homes and Communities Agency’s national Standards also require social landlords to ensure (subject to an agreed extension in some instances, which must be explained to tenants) that all their homes meet the Decent Homes Standard. Social landlords are required by the Standards to meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of the occupants in their homes. You can find the Home Standard document that covers quality of accommodation at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-standards or get a hard copy by ringing the Homes and Communities Agency on 0300 1234 500.
If your members consider that their property has serious hazards that present a risk to their health and safety, they could ask the council to carry out an assessment under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. If they are aware of a serious (“category 1”) hazard, they are under a duty to take appropriate action to address it. We suggest that in the first instance your members discuss with the landlord the action they propose to take and to what timescale, in the light of their legal obligations (which should be set out in your tenancy agreement), the national Standards and their own published policies.
You mention in your letter that the advice you have received from Shelter and CAB states that the only recourse you have is through the courts. Which you identify is costly for disabled and elderly residents who are not eligible for legal aid. We would always advocate that all forms of local discussion take place before this option and strongly recommend that you discuss these matters with the landlord. You may also wish to contact your local MP or local councillor, as they can help residents in their Ward with any problems they have. The name and telephone number of your Councillor can be found at your town hall or at www.WriteToThem.com
Better Rented and Leasehold Sector
Department for Communities and Local Government
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