Housing issues in South Leeds to be discussed

On Wednesday senior councillors on the council’s Executive Board meet and consider three reports on housing which have implications for south Leeds, writes Steve Williamson.
Future of ALMOs
There is a lengthy report reviewing the options for the future delivery of housing management services for council housing in Leeds.  It could mean that Aire Valley Homes, which manages council housing in south Leeds, ceases to exist.
Since 2003 council housing (with  the exception of stock managed by Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation (BITMO)) has been managed by Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) set up and owned by the Council.
The report states:
‘There is no doubt that housing management and the overall service provided to tenants is in a much better position now than it was 10 years ago and whatever the outcome of the review, there is no desire to return to the old style of housing management that existed pre 2003.
The report notes that one of the principal drivers to establishing the ALMOs was obtaining funding from central government to bring council housing up to decency standard and that there are no longer financial incentives to retain ALMOs.  It is also noted that a stock transfer is very unlikely to be financially viable.  The option of further tenant management organisations is not considered.
The report recommends that two options for the future delivery of housing management services should be consulted upon before a final decision is taken.
The two options are:
   • Move to a single company model (e.g. a single ALMO) with a retained locality delivery

     structure and strengthened governance arrangements; or

   • Move to all services being integrated within direct council management with a retained  

     delivery structure and strengthened governance arrangements to include tenants and  

     independent members.

If the report’s recommendation is agreed then the existing ALMOs (Aire Valley Homes in south Leeds) will at the end of the process no longer exist.  BITMO is outside the scope of the review and will continue to manage the Council’s housing in Belle Isle.
It is proposed to consult all council tenants; the outcome of the consultation will not be binding on the Council.  There is no proposal to consult other residents in Leeds. It is likely a final decision will be made by June 2013.
New council homes on Parkwoods and Garnets
A second report describes progress towards the building of new council homes to be delivered over the next three years using £9.5m of Housing Revenue Account (HRA) capital resources and a further £1.38m of commuted sums (money gained from planning approvals).
It is estimated that this funding might provide about 105 new council homes depending on the the type of properties developed and site conditions.
Key drivers for the programme are helping to meeting the housing needs of older people, and responding to the impacts of Welfare Reform by providing one-bed properties.  Among sites being considered within the programme are Parkwood Road and the Garnets both in Beeston.
Brownfield sites in Middleton and Holbeck
Finally, there is a report recommending the establishment of a Brownfield* Land Programme to find the most effective ways of developing housing on such sites in council ownership  The report suggests that this is more likely to be a  more successful approach than dealing with the sites individually as many currently have a negative value.
A number of sites in Middleton and Holbeck Towers, Phase 2 are included within the scope of the proposed programme.
* Sites which have previously had buildings on them’