Council agrees to prepare for housing transfer

Merton Council agreed last week to consult its tenants about transferring its housing from council ownership to a Registered Social Landlord (RSL). The decision was made in a bid to improve the quality of the homes currently under council ownership.

The council is committed to ensuring that residents in the borough are provided with fully modernised, well-maintained homes and surroundings that meet the government’s national Decent Homes Standard. This requires an investment of £129 million over the next 10 years versus the £51 million the council would be in a position to invest over the same period. Transferring the homes from the council to an RSL would mean that all the money paid in rent would be reinvested into the homes. As a council, Merton is obliged to pay 30p in every £1 (which is likely to rise to about 35p from next year) of rent into the government’s central housing pot, which supports those areas of housing considered to be in greater need.

The decision to publicly consult follows months of analysing the condition of council housing in the borough and how best to provide high quality homes for the tenants. A recent independent survey of Merton Council’s housing found that 40% do not meet the Decent Homes criteria and that this would rise to 70% by 2010 without appropriate investment.

Preliminary consultation with tenants and leaseholders has already been carried out, to determine their preferences regarding the housing options open to them. A questionnaire sent to all tenants and leaseholders found that 65% of the 1,500 respondents believed a locally-based organisation with tenants and leaseholders on the board could help deliver the housing services they require for the future.

Merton Council Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, Councillor Diane Neil Mills said: “We want our residents to have modern, well-maintained homes in decent surroundings. Transferring council homes to a Registered Social Landlord will mean total modernisation of the homes to include new bathrooms and kitchens. Throughout the consultation process, we will continue to reassure residents that the contract with the landlord who is eventually chosen will guarantee that residents’ rights, including their right to buy, will not be affected and their rents will not be subject to increases over and above those they would pay if they remained with the council.”