Council tenants vote against housing transfer plans

Council tenants in Birmingham blocked plans to transfer the city's entire stock of 84,000 municipal homes to a new landlord yesterday in a vote that will force a rethink of housing policy.

Council tenants in Birmingham blocked plans to transfer the city's entire stock of 84,000 municipal homes to a new landlord yesterday in a vote that will force a rethink of housing policy.

In a disappointing result for the UK's biggest local authority landlord, tenants voted by a resounding two-to-one majority against the transfer plans, which would have triggered a £1.25bn renovation programme. Council leaders will now be forced to "go back to the drawing board" in an attempt to pay for a huge backlog of repairs and vital improvements to the city's crumbling housing estates.

Birmingham's 94,000 tenants had been widely expected to back a transfer to Birmingham Housing Alliance, a not-for-profit umbrella organisation with 10 local housing boards.

In a similar ballot last week, tenants of Glasgow city council, Britain's second biggest housing authority, agreed to be taken over by a housing association. The 58 per cent vote in favour will trigger a £1.8bn regeneration programme.

But in Birmingham, 67 per cent of tenants (41,000) voted to remain in council ownership, with 33 per cent (20,000) in favour of change. Turnout was 65.5 per cent.

Councillor Dennis Minnis, cabinet member for housing, said: "Throughout this process, we have been honest in saying that existing resources are not enough to deliver the improvements that tenants deserve. We will continue to look for alternative resources to secure decent homes for all of Birmingham's tenants."

Under the Birmingham transfer, 10,000 flats in some of the city's most unpopular high-rise towers and blocks of maisonettes would have been demolished.

The Government has set a target for all social housing to be brought up to a decent standard by 2011. But housing experts said the Birmingham vote left this ambition in doubt.

John Perry, director of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: "The no vote in Birmingham means that the Government's target to get all social housing up to a decent standard in 10 years is now in question. Although Birmingham does not own a big percentage of the remaining 2.8 million council homes in England, the message to other cities will be one of caution in pursuing wholesale transfer."

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