Calico sheltered housing row goes to Ombudsman

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Pensioners in a row over rented sheltered accommodation will take their complaint to the Ombudsman, and are warning their plight could hit other elderly people.

Flats and bungalows built for elderly residents in the borough have been decommissioned by Calico Housing, meaning the property is no longer designated solely for older people and can be rented to anyone the housing body deems suitable.

People living at Stonemoor Bottom in Padiham have been in the vanguard of the change, but their residents’ association says the residents have not signed up to an agreement being used to promote changes elsewhere in town.

Group chairman Mrs Anne Bartlett said she was stunned when saw a feature about Stonemoor Bottom in a newsletter distributed to everyone Calico tenant in the area.

“It’s a very clever publicity stunt,” said Mrs Bartlett. “We know that people all over town are bothered about what is happening, and people in Cliviger are very concerned.

“The flats at Stonemoor Bottom were built for the over 60s, and the people who have made their homes there are pensioners. Calico came up with a new lettings plan and last summer said it had dropped the criteria for getting a flat from people being 60-plus to 50-plus and then to 40-plus or any general needs.

“This means that if a 16 year old needs a place Calico can put them in, no matter how they behave or how they live. It is not right that pensioners have to live like that.”

The feature in the BOLT newsletter says “All residents living in the block of flats came together to develop a Community Agreement” and adds “The resident-led agreement is a written document that has been signed by every customer living in the block, and any new customers will also be asked to sign.”

Calico was asked to say how many properties it has decommissioned, but did not answer the query.

Helen Thompson, Calico’s head of neighbourhood services, said: “If older people’s properties remain unoccupied for long periods of time, or there is no interest from new tenants, it is right that we look at relaxing the lettings criteria to improve the chances of somebody wanting to move in. Whenever this becomes necessary though, we will always work with local residents to ensure that the criteria are as sensitive to the needs of the neighbours as possible.

“In November 2010 we received a formal complaint from the Stonemoor Bottom Residents group regarding the letting of a specific flat that was formerly sheltered accommodation, and we dealt with that as part of our complaints procedure last May. As a result of that the residents group agreed that a Local Lettings Agreement would be set up by the tenants in that block.

“The residents group have the right to appeal the results of their complaint to the Housing Ombudsman or the Tenant Services Authority but we have, to date, not received any contact from them on this matter.”