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Poor quality homes shock as fuel poverty doubles in York
FUEL poverty in York has doubled in the past five years and thousands of city homes fail to meet energy standards, a new report has revealed.
Poor quality homes owned by private landlords are also damaging the health of York people, leading to increased pressure on health services, the study finds.
City of York Council’s new draft private-sector housing strategy for 2014 to 2019, which will be published today, says 6,300 houses in York do not meet energy standards necessary to be classed as “decent homes”.
It also says fuel poverty has risen from eight per cent to 16 per cent since 2008.
Fuel poverty is defined as having to spend more than ten per cent of household income on fuel.
Although York has lower levels of bad housing than much of the UK, growing numbers of people are renting homes privately and the city’s private-sector housing stock needs to improve, the report says.
Privately rented homes, converted and purpose-built flats and pre-war homes are particularly bad for energy standards.
Coun Tracey Simpson Laing, the council’s cabinet member for housing, said in a foreword to the draft, that York had relatively low levels of “non-decent” homes but could not afford to be complacent.
“Within this overall picture poor conditions can still be found and there’s always more we can do to ensure homes are fit for the future.
“I am particularly keen to ensure a stronger focus on the private rented sector in coming years given the increasingly important role it plays.”
Between 2001 and 2011 the number of people renting their homes privately doubled in York, and the sector now accounts for almost a fifth off all homes in the city, the report says.
Poor conditions in privately rented homes and the soaring fuel poverty are particular concerns, it adds.
Twenty-eight percent of all private rented homes are classed as “non decent”, and 24 percent lack even basic security measures like locks on doors and windows.
The report attributes the increase in fuel poverty to rocketing fuel prices.
James Player, deputy chief officer of Age UK in York, said: “Fuel poverty is certainly something we have considerable concerns about. It is a serious issue for older people.”
As winter approached the organisation got ready to drop its other work if temperatures fell for days at a time in order to respond to emergency calls, he said.
Mr Player said: “We don’t want older people ending up in hospital because they cannot keep warm in their homes.”
The council will launch a consultation today on its draft strategy and is keen for people to have their say. The draft will be shared with landlords, stakeholders, tenants and partners at the Housing Summit tomorrow, marking the end of the council’s Housing Week.
The draft says the number of long-term empty properties in York had fallen from 641 to 153 in five years.
Strategy’s series of aims to improve housing
Aims of the draft private-sector housing strategy include:
• Encouraging owner-occupiers to maintain and repair homes, including by increasing awareness of support services and financial help
• Encouraging landlords to provide good-quality and well-managed properties, including increased education of landlords and more enforcement against rogues
• Enabling those whose independence may be at risk to stay in their own home, including promoting awareness of support
• Improving energy efficiency and reducing fuel poverty, including by making homes more energy-efficient
• Increasing the use of the available housing stock, including by converting more space above shops into flats
• Strengthening partnerships to achieve the housing aims.
From 2016, landlords will be forced by law not to unreasonably refuse tenants’ requests for energy improvements.
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