Residents of the towers in Oxford who are leaseholders of their properties have been told by the city council they could have to fork out up to £60,000 for the buildings’ revamp. Here the case is made for and against residents being made to pay up


Oxford Mail:

Councillor Linda Smith, representing Blackbird Leys on Oxford City Council

This £20.2 million refurbishment project will deliver new insulation, replacement windows, replacement heating, new electrics, lift refurbishment and enhancements to the appearance of the blocks.

Residents will benefit from energy savings, reduced fire risk, a brighter living environment and the life of their homes will be extended for a further 30 years.

This level of investment has not been undertaken on these properties since they were constructed in the 1960s and it is not proposed to undertake another project on this scale in the next 30 years.

The 51 privately-owned flats which are affected will increase in value as a result of these works so of course the owners, in many cases private landlords, should pay their fair share of the cost.

Furthermore the council has a legal duty to collect contributions from leaseholders.

The amount leaseholders will have to pay will be decided by the First Tier Tribunal of the Property Chamber, who will look at the reasonableness of the works and costs.

Sums involved will represent a big outlay for homeowners and may sound frightening.

That is why the council has gone to great lengths to talk to individuals about their circumstances and the repayment options that may be appropriate for them.

Options being offered by the council that leaseholders can consider are interest-free payments spreading the cost over 12, 24 or 36 months, a five-year payment plan with three years interest free, an equity share purchase option where the council takes a share of the market value of the property, paid only when the property is sold, or an equity loan, repayable with interest over a long period such as 20 years.

Homeowners could also approach their mortgage provider to discuss extending it to cover the cost, or look for a low cost loan from a reputable bank or building society.

Oxford City Council does not want anyone to lose their home because of their inability to pay for these necessary works.

If any leaseholders are still worried they should contact the council’s tenancy management team or their local councillors.


Oxford Mail:

John Dillon, Greater Leys resident and coach at BLITZ IT hub, Blackbird Leys Community Centre

At the moment, whatever the reasons, it’s absolutely terrible for someone in a flat to suddenly find themselves with a £40,000 to £60,000 bill. This is not an affordable amount.

No one, even the people in the flats who are earning good money, can suddenly have a £40,000 bill slapped on them. I know I couldn’t.

For older people especially to suddenly find they have a bill of that size is absolutely disgusting.

Oxford City Council has said leaseholders can pay off the debt for three years interest-free, or five with interest.

But divided by 12 months, 24 months or 36 months, what does that figure become? It could still be £20,000 a year, which is far too much.

Let’s say it’s a £60,000 bill and you do pay off £20,000 per year.

That is £1,666 per month, and I bet there are not very many people bringing money home every month out of which they can spend that much.

The equity option is favourable but maybe the council should offer to buy the flats back off them.

The council is taking itself to a tribunal so that if it comes out that they’re right, then it’s legally binding and that shuts everyone else down, and instead of having 51 cases there’s only one court cost.

The legal department must have already looked at the pros and cons of taking themselves to court and must think they have a favourable chance of winning.

If I was in the towers I would be banging on all 51 doors and getting everyone along to the tribunal because it’s not an affordable amount.

The contractors, Willmott Dixon, are all for helping the community. Myself, I jumped on them about the IT hub, but if we get that money those that are paying will be the poor people in the flats.

I can understand the argument about making them last longer, but will it be worth it?

If they had just demolished them it would be easier. If it was me I would have taken the money for the flat and run.

My biggest question is why the outside needs to be refurbished. Heating and electrics are more communal, but I would question the outside walls.

Will the flats fall down if they don’t have cladding on the outside?

There’s a difference between general repairs and cosmetic changes.

If Oxford City Council just wants to make the towers look pretty, they can pay for it.