Fareham braces itself for £23m council homes repair bill

MILLIONS of pounds have to be found to bring Fareham's council housing stock up to standard in the next 10 years, The News can reveal.

Friday, 22nd April 2016, 6:03 am
Fareham Borough Council has funded six new eco-homes built in Sarisbury Green to the Passivhaus standard, which were finished recently - but the authority needs to find £23m to improve other housing that it owns. Pictured at the key handover for the Passivhaus homes are, from left, Cllr Seán Woodward, Mayor of Fareham Cllr Mike Ford, divisional director for builders Interserve Justin Elliott and executive member for health and housing Cllr Kay Mandry Picture: Malcolm Wells (160323-1107)

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the authority has to find £23m to make ‘major improvements and repairs’ to 1,352 homes in the borough.

It comes as pressure mounts on councils to sell more of its housing stock to fund the government’s extension of the right-to-buy scheme.

Fareham Borough Council leader Cllr Sean Woodward, says the bill is not a concern and is part of the borough’s long-term business plan.

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But Stubbington Ukip councillor Chris Wood has grave concerns about the council’s finances.

He said: ‘£23m seems like a staggering amount of money.

‘Serious questions have to been asked of the council, in terms of where this money will come from and whether this is in line with other authorities.

‘The council is running out of money. It will either not be able to provide public services or go bust.’

But Cllr Woodward said the cash would be taken from the housing revenue account, made up of rent and other bill payments made by tenants.

He said: ‘Rent comes in and that money is spent on repairs.

‘With regards to the standards we have to meet, Fareham is almost unique in that we meet those standards and many other councils don’t.

‘But we are aware that over the next few years, there will be more repairs that will need to be done, such as repairs to kitchens, boilers and bathrooms, and that’s why we have a long-term business plan for what we need to spend.’

Campaigners meanwhile are concerned by the government’s controversial Housing and Planning Bill – to enable housing association tenants to buy their properties.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: ‘Our desperate shortage of genuinely affordable homes is leaving millions of people across the country struggling to find a stable place to live.’

But Cllr Woodward says cash generated will also help fund new council housing in the borough.

Portsmouth City 
Council meanwhile says it does not have a ‘repair backlog’ – but there are 113 homes and bungalows and 376 blocks of flats that have been assessed as ‘poor’ and need work.

Housing waiting lists across the region are lengthening

FIGURES show the rise in council housing waiting lists.

The number of people looking for a one-bed property in Fareham rose from 539 in 2013/2014 to 575 in 2014/2015. In Havant, demand for one-beds have almost doubled from 666 to 1,225. Those waiting for two-beds went from 342 to 695.

In Portsmouth, those looking for one-bed flats and studio homes went down from 492 to 481 in 2015.

But demand for two-bed homes rose from 392 to 507 and the number of families looking for a three-bed home or larger has gone from 467 to 617.