£900k bill for home surveys

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COUNCIL bosses are spending £900,000 bringing in specialist surveyors to carry out an independent review of every council house and flat in the city.

The year-long survey of social housing in the Capital is being done to determine how many homes and flats are currently fit for purpose.

Around 19,600 properties are to be examined to comply with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015.

Internally, the surveyors will ensure homes are insulated and water tanks are in working order, while externally they will examine the outer fabric of each building.

The surveys, which will begin in six months and run until December 2011, will include every high-rise and low-rise property in the city. The council, whose own staff usually undertakes such surveys, will be given an independent report at the end of the process.

Cathy King, head of housing at the Edinburgh City Council, said: "It's important that the council provides our tenants with a decent standard of housing which is why we are investing a record 30 million this year in improvements.

"The survey will ensure we have full information on the condition of our homes and are able to identify and prioritise future investment.

"As we move towards achieving the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, we want to get detailed survey information on all our homes. Over half of them have now achieved the SHQS and we are looking to reach 100 per cent by 2015."

Despite severe cuts to local authority budgets this year, the council has already pledged to spend 30m on upgrading social housing in Edinburgh, much of which has been left to decay for many years.

Maureen Jarvis, vice convener of Edinburgh Tenants Federation, which represents those who live in council houses, said: "We are pleased that the council are making these improvements to housing.

"It is an exciting time for tenants living in Edinburgh and the federation will continue to work alongside the council to achieve our objectives."

Three tower blocks in Gracemount were demolished and are to be replaced by 99 flats and six houses.

As part of a housing upgrade this year, the council will spend 11.2m on kitchens and bathrooms and 1.8m on installing double glazing in 650 homes.

It will also spend 1.3m to rewire homes to comply with modern wiring safety standards and 2.6m invested in central heating systems in 650 homes.

Councillor Paul Edie, the city's housing leader, said: "Coupled with our exciting 21st Century Homes project which will see the first new council homes for a generation, it is not hard to see why our tenants are benefiting from such a dedicated service.

"They have a right to expect the council ensure their properties are fit for purpose and I'm delighted that we are making such tremendous progress."

Regulator says housing makes grade

Edinburgh City Council's housing service has been named the best in Scotland after the Scottish Housing Regulator awarded it two A grades and a B grade, the highest out of 32 local authorities.

The council was the only local authority to receive an A for helping the homeless secure housing and received the same grade for the management of around 19,600 properties across the city.

It also received a B grade for asset management and repairs, with assessors saying the housing service "demonstrates continuous improvements against its objectives over a number of years". Previously West Lothian Council had the best inspection result with two As and a C.

City housing leader Councillor Paul Edie said: "The number of tenants evicted is at a record low, homelessness has fallen for the fourth year running in spite of the dire economic circumstances and work is due to start on the first new council homes for a generation.".