Residents of a Daventry estate may need to look for alternative accommodation after the district council informed them their homes are to be sold.
Last year, tenants of the 'site 10' estate in Middlemore were informed that Daventry District Council was looking to sell the estate to a single new owner, but it failed to find a buyer.
The Daventry Estate Company Limited (TDECL) - a company set up by DDC to provide rental income for the authority - thus informed residents in a letter sent out last month their homes would be sold individually, in small batches, and that this could take 12-18 months.
District councillor Ken Ritchie (Abbey North ward, Labour) has condemned the decision and has promised to challenge it, and the conditions offered to tenants, at the next council meeting on February 22.
“DDC is treating people simply as if they are commodities to be bought and sold," said Cllr Ritchie.
"This letter has left many people feeling distressed and insecure, unsure of how they are going to provide homes for their families.
“These properties were marketed as ‘Lifetime homes’ for ‘long-term tenants’, and those who moved in felt they had the security of having a local authority as their landlord. The promises made to them have been callously ignored.
“Offering only five weeks to decide whether to buy is hopelessly inadequate as arranging mortgages can take much longer than that. However, as most who rent do so because they cannot afford to buy, the offer seems rather disingenuous.
“There are a lot of very worried people on Middlemore, and they have good reason to be worried.”
The term 'lifetime homes' does not refer to the term of rental but rather the design of the houses.
It describes homes that are designed to be easily adaptable to the changing needs of people at different stages of life, for example, families with children or people with mobility issues.
In the letter sent to Middlemore residents last month, they were offered the chance to buy their homes for £203,000 but only given five weeks to express their interest in doing so.
The letter also warns that, although some purchasers may want to buy to let and be prepared to continue existing tenancies, some may want vacant homes - in which case residents will be given notice to quit.
Cllr Ritchie said that he and fellow Abbey North ward councillors (Cllr Nigel Carr, UKIP; Cllr David James, Conservative) were informed of the letter in an email sent on the afternoon after the letters had been posted, giving them no opportunity to comment or make objections.
Councillor Colin Poole, Daventry District Council’s economic, regeneration and portfolio holder, and TDECL board member, said: “The council understands that there will be concerns from the residents affected. However, it has been clear for some time that we intend to dispose of the properties in question.
“Circumstances do change over time and no rented property is ever let on a guarantee of lifetime occupancy. Residents sign tenancy agreements and are aware of their obligations and the tenancy terms and conditions. The properties in question were rented in the private sector and not as “council housing”.
“The council first gave notice of a change nine months ago and has no intention of simply repossessing the properties in any urgent fashion. The letter sent to residents recently clearly sets out the advice and assistance the council can provide, and every effort will be made to work with the families affected.
“So far, about a third of the residents have been in touch following the recent letter and we will be exploring individual circumstances to see if there is any assistance we can provide. Some residents will make their own choices and arrangements and such flexibility is, of course, one of the factors considered when people choose to rent rather than purchase property.”