Scarborough Council shortlisted for national award for its approach to tackling housing challenges

Scarborough Council's approach to tackling the borough's housing challenges has been acknowledged at a national level.

By Corinne Macdonald
Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 10:56 am
Scarborough Town Hall. (JPI Media/ Richard Pomter)
Scarborough Town Hall. (JPI Media/ Richard Pomter)

The authority has been shortlisted as ‘council of the year’ in the prestigious UK housing awards which are run by the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Providing good quality housing for everyone is a key priority of the council’s corporate plan.

The ambition – called Better Homes – is to ensure everyone in the borough has access to good-quality affordable housing which meets their needs.

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Councillor Carl Maw. (JPI Media/ Richard Ponter)

At the same time the plan commits to tackling homelessness with no one forced to sleep on the streets.

Councillor Carl Maw, cabinet member for stronger communities and housing, said: “This is a fantastic achievement.

“To get this kind of national recognition for the work we do is a fantastic achievement.

“I’d like to thank everyone who works in – or supports – our fantastic housing service.

"They have taken an innovative approach to meet the challenges of the last year with the housing first scheme and the Better Homes project."

The borough of Scarborough has historically faced a range of housing issues which have been made more difficult because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There is a very high housing need caused by a lack of affordability, a low-income economy, high second home ownership and a shortage of social housing.

Despite this backdrop, the council has supported the development of almost 700 new affordable homes in just five years.

More than 150 homes have been built in the past 12 months alone and a further 270 will be completed before the end of March 2022.

Working closely with registered providers, Homes England and other partner organisations has been central to the council’s housing success.

Cllr Maw continued: “We are a small council and we don’t have the luxury of limitless resources but it’s clear to me that we punch way above our weight.

“Whether it is affordable homes, improving the quality of housing, helping people stay warmer or to reduce their utility bills, our teams work hard every day across the borough.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we’ve continued to achieve so much this year.”

The borough also has high concentrations of privately rented accommodation.

Although much of this is of a good standard, a large proportion of the stock is of a lower quality and is badly managed.

Selective licensing schemes were created to tackle problems with Scarborough’s poor housing stock in the private sector.

Two thousand households are now covered by the schemes and 75 per cent of them have been inspected by the housing team.

There have been 15 prosecutions as a result and thousands of serious defects and hazards have been dealt with.

There has also been a strong focus on improving energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty.

This has meant more than 1,800 residents or households have been given support.

Many have benefitted from more energy-efficient heating systems or have been helped to reduce the cost of their utility bills.

Through close working with partner organisations, helping people live independently in their own homes, as well as preventing and dealing with homelessness are also at the top of the council’s overall housing agenda.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the council responded quickly to the government’s ‘get everyone in’ initiative to support homeless people and offer them a roof over their heads.

As a result, more than 30 households are now in continuing settled accommodation.

The next phase of the housing programme is the innovative Better Homes project. The council has identified land it owns where there is the potential for new affordable homes.

Work is now underway to find a housing association, or other registered provider, so a joint venture, limited liability partnership, can be formed to deliver the project.

The nature of the partnership would allow the council to reinvest its share of any surplus funds into future schemes or developments.

The UK housing award final winners will be announced in November.