Housing Service Progress 2019-2023
The Director (Housing Services) introduced the report and advised that in 2019, the Council adopted an ambitious Corporate Plan following a period of consultation with residents. Within that plan, there were specific commitments in relation to Housing in the Borough and the report sought to outline to Members a summary of progress made in relation to those commitments, and how service changes and improvements have had an impact on both the Council and the community it served over the last four years.
The Director (Housing) Services) had invited several managers from Housing to attend the Committee tonight to be able to showcase some of their work and highlight key improvements to Members.
Housing Landlord Services
The Service Manager (Housing Landlord Services) highlighted several key areas of changes/improvements from the Housing Land Services Department:
· Restructure of the Sheltered Housing Team
· Introduction of Capital Project
· Review of Tenant Engagement Team
· Increased Tenant Engagement including the development of a tenant and leaseholder engagement strategy with a three-year action plan
A full list of the changes/improvements to the Housing Landlord Services department for 2019-23, their link to the Corporate Plan and the benefits of each change/improvement to the Council could be found on pages 13-15 of the report.
The Service Manager (Housing Options) highlighted several key areas of changes/ improvements from the Housing Options Department:
· Allocations Policy & introduction of Allocations Panel
· Consulted on and implemented a new staffing structure.
· Introduction of Financial penalties
· Housing Enforcement Policy review
· Introducing HMO Licence applications
· Wrotham Road Rough Sleeping Provision/Next Steps Funding
· Rough Sleeping Initiative Funding (RSI4 2021/22)
The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager outlined further key points regarding her work with rough sleepers in the Borough:
· In 2021, the Rough Sleeping Service was evaluated, and a new multi-agency partnership was formed to ensure all needs of the vulnerable people could be addressed. The Partnership included local communities, Churches, Kent Police, House of Mercy, Job Centre, Servico Outreach Services and Northgate Mind. Additionally, there were mental health support services and a Porchlight Alcohol & drug abuse officer who worked with residents placed in the Wrotham Road Council accommodation.
· The Partnership was extremely effective and meant that all partners were giving out the same information to those that were supported ensuring there wasn’t any conflicting advice given.
A full list of the changes/improvements to the Housing Options department for 2019-23, their link to the Corporate Plan and the benefits of each change/improvement to the Council could be found on pages 21-24 of the report.
Housing Development & Enabling
The Director (Housing) highlighted several key areas of changes/improvements from the Housing Development & Enabling department:
· Creation of an Investment Partnership to help accelerate affordable house building.
· Directly developing (or currently in planning) 200 council homes across the Borough
· Formed a consortium with Elizabeth Huggins Almshouses in order to access £500,000 of Homes England funding.
A full list of the changes/improvements to the Housing Development & Enabling department for 2019-23, their link to the Corporate Plan and the benefits of each change/improvement to the Council could be found on pages 20-21 of the report.
The Director (Housing) highlighted several key areas of changes/ improvements from the Housing Operations department:
· Introduced Phase 2 expansion of the workforce – In 2016, there were only 26 employees in place to carry out plumbing/carpentry/electrical work in Council Houses with a large reliance on external contractors. 40% of the Councils repairs work was carried out by external contractors which was costly and meant the Council couldn’t ensure the quality of service provided or maintain influence over all of the work carried out. Since the restructure the workforce had been increased to 76 craft workers with the majority of work conducted in house with only minimal reliance on external contractors ensuring the Council had complete control of the works carried out and gave the opportunity for more local people to work for the Council
· Introduction of an Estate Management Policy
· Introduction of Rate my estate inspection and guide
· Introduction of an Energy & Sustainability Team
· Successfully securing £1.5million of funding through various Government funding streams to retrofit the housing stock helping to meet the Councils Carbon Neutral Pledge and saving customers money on their energy bills
A full list of the changes/improvements to the Housing Operations department for 2019-23, their link to the Corporate Plan and the benefits of each change/improvement to the Council could be found on pages 16-20 of the report.
Concern was raised by a Member regarding several anti-social behaviour cases in the Whitehill ward and the lack of progress report on anti-social behaviour cases compared to other areas of Housing.
In response to the Members concern, the Director (Housing) stated that it was an unfair comparison as that report outlined progress made over the last four years in different areas of Housing and the new Anti-Social behaviour Policy had only been in effect for one month so the progress of the Policy could not be measured accurately in the report at this time.
In addition, the Service Manager (Housing Landlord Services) advised that she was aware of the cases that the Member was referring to and had provided responses to those cases outside of the meeting.
The Service Manager (Housing Landlord Services) further added that she was proud of the new ASB policy as staff now had a clear process to follow which wasn’t available to them prior to implementation of the Policy. Tenant engagement was classified as a key part of the policy and officers would remain in contact with residents during the case and following conclusion of a case to ensure that the residents were supported; the Policy would ensure residents were supported and protected by the Council moving forward.
The Committee praised the excellent work of the officers over the last four years in improving the service and asked that their thanks be passed to the whole department; Members also noted the Excellent Housing Professional award won by the Neighbourhood Partnership Manager and commended her for it.
The Chair thanked the officers for their informative presentations and the hard work that they put into improving the efficiency of the Housing Department over the last four years.
The Chair also thanked Members for their participation in the Housing Services Committee over the last year.
The Chair advised that this was the last meeting the Service Manager (Housing Landlord Services) would be attending as she was leaving the Council and Members wished the Service Manager (Housing Landlord Services) good luck in her new job.
- Hsg Cab Committe Report - Housing Service Progression 2019-23, item 14. PDF 206 KB
- Appendix 1 - Changes and Improvements 2019-23, item 14. PDF 373 KB