Out-of-date elderly housing to go

PUBLISHED: 16:21 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

FIVE sheltered council housing schemes are to close in a bid to provide more modern accommodation for elderly people in the district. As the Herts Advertiser reported in February, The Grange in Colney Heath, Laelia House and Linley Court in St Albans, Ca

FIVE sheltered council housing schemes are to close in a bid to provide more modern accommodation for elderly people in the district.

As the Herts Advertiser reported in February, The Grange in Colney Heath, Laelia House and Linley Court in St Albans, Caroline Sharpe House in Marshalswick and Victor Smith Court in Bricket Wood have been identified for closure.

A sixth scheme, Breadcroft in Harpenden, is to be decommissioned as a sheltered housing scheme and reclassified for use by elderly people.

Among the options for their future use is to provide housing for elderly people who don't require sheltered facilities but may need extra care provision with additional support provided to enable them to live their lives as independently as possible.

A further seven sheltered housing schemes are to be redeveloped to offer improved facilities and the residents will be offered the option of moving back when they are completed.

All the changes will be carried out by housing associations because St Albans District Council does not have the money to carry out the work itself.

It will mean that existing tenants have new landlords but the council insists that they will have the same rights as they have with local authorities.

The changes stem from the council's inability to attract elderly people into its existing bedsits which has been getting steadily worse.

Last year more than 40 of them were empty but now the figure has risen to 83 - almost a quarter of the sheltered housing stock. In some schemes vacancy levels are as high as 40 per cent.

The council's director of housing, Karen Dragovich, said: "What we have found is that the studio flats are not considered to be a modern standard of accommodation and living. They are too small, there is insufficient storage and nowhere for members of the family to stay.

"Most people would like to have one or two-bedroomed accommodation or a bungalow."

A huge outcry greeted options put to people in sheltered accommodation last year that either the whole of the council's sheltered housing stock would be transferred to a housing association or existing tenants would remain with the council as their landlord with bedsits transferred to a housing association as they became available.

As a result of the concern a pilot scheme has been carried out at Eric Steele House in Park Street this summer. Residents have been interviewed on a one-to-one basis and an architect has drawn up illustrative plans to show the options for the redevelopment which would include accommodation with mobility access.

Cllr Robert Donald, leader of the council, admitted: "Communication was not as good as it should have been first time around but as a council we have a responsibility for what is a highly-sensitive improvement programme."

He accepted that for some tenants it would not be good news but stressed that there were many who were very excited about the improvements and could not wait for work to start.

He added: "We do believe we have to do this to provide for future generations in the district as well as the residents we have at the moment.

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