Tenants will get the chance to vote on the future of the council’s housing stock after the Government’s Housing Minister agreed to a special ballot.
The ballot, which was given the go ahead by Housing Minister Grant Shapps this week, will ask tenants whether the council’s housing stock should be transferred to a charitable, not for profit, registered social landlord.
It comes in the wake of the Government’s new ‘Self Financing’ funding arrangements for council housing which would result in Swindon Borough Council tenants taking on £145.5m of the national council housing debt from 1 April 2012 and create a £72.6m capital shortfall in the first 10 years.
By transferring the housing stock to a charitable registered social landlord, additional funding would be made available to bridge the £72.6m shortfall.
If the council maintains its housing stock under the ‘Self Financing’ arrangements, it will be unable to keep its properties maintained at the Decent Homes Standard.
However, a stock transfer will result in some key benefits to tenants. All tenants who need a new kitchen and bathroom will be able to have one within five to six years instead of 10 to 11 years, respectively, and work will also start to ensure the council’s sheltered housing stock is fit for purpose.
Any council properties which are non-traditionally built will also receive the necessary investment to secure their long-term future, while average rents will be maintained under the stand alone organisation.
Tenants’ rights would be unaffected by a stock transfer and existing tenants would also have the Right to Buy and the Right of Succession.
It is anticipated that tenants will be balloted in November and an independent tenants’ advisor will be appointed to support tenants in understanding the options.
Cllr Brian Mattock, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Housing and Adult Social Care, said: “I am delighted that the Minister has recognised that ‘Self Financing’ arrangements do not work for Swindon tenants and has given the green light for the council to go to ballot.
“It is absolutely right that council tenants should be allowed to decide whether they stay with the council or transfer to a newly created ‘Swindon’ housing association and avoid £145.5million of additional housing debt being placed on them from 1 April 2012.”