A massive spend in Falkirk Council’s housing stock has been agreed with £347m committed over the next five years for improvements to existing homes and provision of additional homes.
In 2022/23 alone, £38.7m will be spent on improvements to around 6,800 properties with £6.5m on improving the fabric of buildings with re-roofing, roughcasting and £3.75m on replacement kitchens and bathrooms. A further £15m will be spent in the next year on replacement doors and windows to continue a programme to upgrade every property.
In total, £7m will be spent on energy efficiency works, with around 1,100 properties each year benefitting from new heating systems at a cost of £2m as well as heating upgrades to three high rise blocks. Further work will also be done on replacement cladding at Glenfuir Court.
£5.5m funding was approved as part of last year’s Housing Investment Programme to provide more cost effective and efficient heating systems for tenants within off-gas areas. The installation of a gas infrastructure is planned to get underway during 2022/23, with completion expected in 2023/24. Additionally, for areas where gas supply is not viable, alternative heating solutions, including renewable technology measures such as Air Source Heat Pumps are being considered.
£2.3m is allocated for estate improvements such as fences, walls and paths. £0.35mm will be invested to complete the Council’s programme of upgraded smoke and heat detectors with 12,500 already installed in the last year. And £1m will be allocated to install a range of renewable technology measures across priority properties to help the Council meet new standards for Energy Efficiency for Social Housing by 2032
Also included in the five-year plan will be investment of £25.8m that will deliver more than 633 new build homes for rent in locations including Hallglen, Bonnybridge, Denny, Banknock, Polmont, Bainsford, Stenhousemuir, Torwood and Langlees.
Falkirk Council will continue its programme of ‘buy backs’ of former Council homes purchasing around 80 properties a year at a cost of £7m.
Council rents will increase by 2.0% from 1 April for its 16,700 tenants (or an average of £1.44 per week with an average rent of £73.31 per week). More than half of all tenants will be fully protected from any increase due to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit protection.
The Housing Investment Programme and Housing revenue Account is entirely separate from the Council’s other budgets and revenue raised by rents and grants etc, can only be reinvested in housing programmes and in no other aspect of Council services.
Councillor Gordon Hughes, spokesperson for Housing said: “We have yet again had to deliver improvements to our housing stock against the backdrop of COVID-19. While it was a very challenging year we delivered a wide range of improvements across our housing stock.
“We have agreed a £347m spend over the next five years for improvements to existing homes as well as planning to build 633 new homes. This will also allow us to buy back properties to help meet housing demand.
“Our investment programme also aims to take account of the Climate Emergency and has a focus on sustainability and protecting the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of our housing stock while keeping our homes warmer and more energy efficient.
“The rent increase is in line with the feedback from tenants and aims to balance an acceptable increase relative to the levels of investment and improvement carried out on our houses and allows us to keep our properties at a high standard.”
The Council must ensure its housing stock meets the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) and the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH). At 31 March 2021:
89.95% of properties were assessed as meeting the SHQS criteria. Work is progressing to improve those remaining properties.
96.5% of properties are fully EESSH compliant.
Based on 2020/21 rent levels, Falkirk Council had the 6th lowest rent compared to the other 25 local authority landlords in Scotland.