Cabinet Call by Councillor Christine Lawton, South Holland District Council Portfolio Holder for Housing Landlord
‘Papering over the cracks’ is perhaps a metaphor for a poor piece of work or for covering up something best not seen.
In my own case it is an accurate description of my decorating skills in an old house where it seems only multiple layers of wallpaper keep the whole edifice standing!
However, as a landlord with responsibility for almost 4,000 homes – the majority predating the 1980s – our residents can be reassured that this is definitely not the case at South Holland District Council.
We take the maintenance and improvement of our stock very seriously and invest huge sums of money in ensuring tenants’ homes are modernised and repaired.
This year alone we are investing £2.1million in new kitchens and bathrooms and £2million on general repairs to keep our houses at the decent homes level.
We have also replaced 361 boilers (approximately 9 per cent of our stock), and where it is possible we install new and innovative technology.
For a small number of homes we have replaced solid fuel and electric storage heating with ground source heat pumps – I feel a pang of envy in my draughty, papered-over, chilly old house.
I find it interesting when considering our repairs and stock improvement to reflect on the overall age profile of homes in our district.
Almost 70 per cent were built between 1920 and 1960. It was a busy building year for council housing in 1930 when 786 homes were completed and 1950 saw another surge.
These houses have weathered the intervening years well, but constant maintenance is obviously necessary.
We have kept in-house our own response and repairs team (the CSU) which covers electrics, plumbing, carpentry, plastering and the myriad of small but vital call-outs which our tenants need. This year there were over 12,000 calls on our service and 86 per cent of the jobs were completed on the first visit.
I am pleased to say that 99 per cent of our tenants expressed satisfaction with the work done and appointments kept, but recognise that with this large body of work there will be occasions when things go wrong.
We have recently embarked on a building programme for new homes and have ambitious plans for many more as we invest in the affordable homes so needed by young families in our district.