Agenda, decisions and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend DA12 1AU. View directions
An apology for absence was received from Cllr Colin Caller and Cllr Brian Francis attended as his substitute.
The minutes of the meeting of the Housing Services Cabinet Committee held on 12 November 2019 were signed by the Chair.
Declarations of Interest
No declarations of interest were made.
The report seeks approval for the review of the Council’s Housing Allocations Policy and the commencement of wider consultation on the proposed changes to the Policy.
To commence wider consultation on the proposed significant changes to the council’s housing allocations policy.
The Chair advised that the Borough Council’s Allocations Policy had not been reviewed since 2014 and this report was the start of wider consultation on proposed changes. Time had proved that the existing policy was not as effective as it could be and working within the confines of the available Council housing stock the greatest concern the Council had was not to raise false hopes for applicants of the register. The proposed Allocations Policy gives greater emphasis to housing needs and, with the rise in homelessness, there had never been greater need than at the present time. The current policy could create unnecessary barriers for households most in need of social housing.
It was essential that the Council continued to help those in greatest need whilst making best use of the limited stock. The two year local connection was proposed to be extended to three as the Council felt that local residents must come first.
The Policy would also be in line with Objective 1 of the Corporate Plan (2019-23) - People - as the Housing Allocations Policy would help ensure the commitment to provide a proactive, supportive and financially efficient housing service - giving high quality tenant management experienced through a service making full use of its assets.
The Council needed to achieve the fairest allocation with its limited stock and to ensure that tenants and residents understood the revised Policy once approved.
The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) reported that approval was sought for the review of the Council's Housing Allocations Policy and the commencement of wider consultation on the proposed changes to the Policy. The proposed changes to the Housing Allocation Policy were to ensure that it reflected changes in legislation, guidance and good practice and the redraft provided a comprehensive housing allocation scheme which would reflect how the Council would assess and prioritise the high demand from applicants for the limited supply of social housing, to make best use of the stock available and deal with urgent housing needs e.g. homelessness. An officer consultation had been undertaken and the feedback had resulted in the changes proposed to the policy and this would be put out to public consultation with the objective of final approval of the Policy in September.
The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) stated that there were seven significant changes proposed to the Policy:
1. Definition of qualifying local connection criteria – this would include the simplification of the local connection criteria and the length of connection (residence or employment in the Borough) would also be increased from two to three years without break although there would be some exceptions to this. Applicants needing to move into the Borough to give or receive care would be excluded from the local connection criteria and instead included within the exceptional circumstances category, so that each case could be considered on its particular merits.
2. Sanctions for refusing an offer of social housing – most applicants would be entitled to receive two offers and could refuse one ... view the full minutes text for item 25.
To present the Members of Housing Services Cabinet Committee with an update against the Performance Management Framework, as introduced within the Council’s Corporate Plan, for Quarter Three 2019/20 (October to December 2019).
The Committee was presented with an update against the Performance Management Framework, as introduced within the Council’s Corporate Plan, for Quarter 3 2019/20 (October to December 2019). It was noted that this was the first report since the adoption of the new Corporate Plan.
The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) went through each of the Policy Commitments contained in the appendix to the report and the following points were raised:
1. Enforce a high quality of private housing: work with landlords to tackle property standards, empty homes and homes in multiple occupation (HMOs).
· A few properties had been closed by the Council, approximately five that the Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) was aware of, because they had been deemed as being unsafe. Officers also worked with the Community Safety Unit, the Police and the Border Force UK on this issue as the residents that lived in such properties tended to be very vulnerable.
· As a result of a successful bid for Government funding, an additional officer had been bought in to join the team. The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) undertook to bring a report on this subject to the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee.
· Following a question raised on a report on empty homes, Members were advised that the number of empty homes brought back into use were now lower than previously given the good performance of the Council over the last couple of years and a report would come to this Cabinet Committee if and when there was anything to report.
2. Provide a proactive, supportive and financially efficient housing service: High quality tenant management experienced through a service making full use of its assets.
· Members noted the good results achieved by the Council and the sheltered housing challenges. The Committee was advised the sheltered housing client group often had needs unique to each individual and often required Occupational Therapy (OT) recommendations to be sought which in turn meant it took time to make the dwelling habitable. The OT Service was the responsibility of the Kent County Council. Sheltered housing was not as popular as it used to be and was difficult to let and the Council would continue to market these properties as effectively as possible. The officer undertook to bring a report on sheltered housing to a future meeting of the Committee.
· The Committee was advised that the Private Sector Disabled Facilities Grant assessments were funded via a central government grant and a was a means tested grant.
3. Safeguard Residents: put in place a package of housing measures and creative interventions that support the most vulnerable.
· The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) advised that the process of administering Disabled Facilities Grants within the Council had undergone some changes over the last three years and that the applications were undertaken quickly and efficiently by the Borough Council. Whilst delays could sometimes occur, these were not on the parts of the process within the remit of the Council and were sometimes due to applicants not providing ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
To inform members of the Housing Services Committee of the council’s involvement in partnerships that are within the remit of the committee.
The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) advised that this was an annual report that provided details of the Council’s involvement in partnerships that fell within the remit of the Committee. The details of all eight partnerships were listed including the new Sanctuary Partnership which assisted single rough sleepers, as set out on page 43 of the report. This service had initially been open for 3 nights a week, but now the charity was able to open 6 nights a week from October to March. The services provided by the Sanctuary were mainly for local people and strict rules of use applied. Members’ attention was drawn to an error in the report (page 45) in that Abbeyfield was now named Rapport.
The following points were raised during discussion on this subject:
· The Chair advised that the Council paid for the Sanctuary’s utilities and the DSO donated labour and some contractors had also donated equipment.
· Following a question on how many housing associations served the Borough, Members’ attention was drawn to page 45 of the report which set out the partnership arrangements but did not include all the housing associations in the locality.
· It was noted that there were no formal partnership arrangements with health services. However, the Council had regular contact with the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which was located at the Civic Centre.
· Members were advised that housing associations were subject to the rules enforced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG).
· It was highlighted that the Council’s Housing Partnerships Manager did a marvellous job pursuing energy deals for the Council and was also the Chair of the Kent Energy Efficiency Partnership.
Resolved that the report be noted.