ALL of Birmingham’s 68,000 council houses and flats could meet the government’s decent homes standard by the end of this year.
Reaching the target would represent one of the most dramatic housing about-turns in the country.
Eight years ago, only 30 per cent of the city’s housing stock was considered “decent” under Whitehall guidelines.
Most properties were without central heating, double glazing, and outside toilets were not unknown.
Following a £673 million investment since 2004, a vast programme of modernisation means that 50,000 homes have hit the decency target.
The scale of improvement is among the best for any major British city, and for the first time in decades the city is also building council houses.
Cabinet members yesterday backed proposals for in 101 new homes in Soho, Ladywood, Egg Hill, Saltley, Northfield and Ley Hill and rubber-stamped a £102 million housing investment programme for 2010/11.
Council house rents will rise by 3.1 per cent, to £70 a week.
The rise was criticised by cabinet housing member John Lines, who said he had wanted to freeze rents but was forced by the government to impose an increase.
Coun Lines (Con Bartley Green) said the extra rent collected by the council, about £64 million, would go straight to Whitehall where it would be redistributed to other under-performing local authorities. Birmingham was paying the price for having a successful housing policy, he said.
Coun Lines told the cabinet that an average city council house was now worth £65,000, compared to a nominal £1 eight years ago.
He added: “We have made excellent progress, despite the inadequate and inequitable government financial support.
“We have always recognised that housing investment is crucial to the health and well-being of our citizens, who deserve to live in decent homes.
“I am confident that warm, energy efficient, modern homes will vastly improve the quality of life of our tenants.”
Opposition Labour leade Sir Albert Bore pointed out that Housing Revenue Account subsidy system, requiring Birmingham to hand over £64 million in rental income, had been introduced by a Conservative government.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) added: “If John Lines wants to go an lobby for repealing this legislation, then I would be happy to join with him.”