Venue: Online via the Zoom app
Contact: Alethea Thompson 01395 571653; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Terms of reference
To note the terms of reference, as agreed by Cabinet:
To assist the Council in ensuring East Devon Homes Limited (the Council’s housing company) is fit for purpose by; re-evaluating the business model, considering alternative business models, its role in the delivery of housing generally and how it might meet the aspirations of the Council in relation to affordable housing, working with the Housing Review Board and the Housing Revenue Account to explore options for housing delivery.
The Forum noted the terms of reference, as agreed by Cabinet. These were:
To assist the Council in ensuring East Devon Homes Limited (the Council’s
housing company) is fit for purpose by; re-evaluating the business model,
considering alternative business models, its role in the delivery of housing
generally and how it might meet the aspirations of the Council in relation to
affordable housing, working with the Housing Review Board and the Housing Revenue Account to explore options for housing delivery.
Information on public speaking is available online.
There were no matters raised by the public.
Appointment of Vice Chairman
Nominations for Vice Chairman were received for Councillor Ian Thomas and Councillor Ian Hall.
RESOLVED: that Councillor Ian Thomas be appointed Vice Chairman of the Housing Company Task and Finish Forum.
Dates of future meetings
The Forum agreed to decide on dates of future meetings once the scope of the Forum’s work objectives and strategy of the housing company had been considered.
The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment outlined the current business model of East Devon Homes and explained that the original purpose was to complement EDDC’s social housing role. The housing company was established in 2017 to be wholly owned by the council with the purpose of providing housing in the general market (outside the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and to generate a profit to provide income to the council’s general fund. The company was established at a time when the government was encouraging innovation and many housing authorities were establishing new delivery vehicles for housing. It sat within the council’s investment and commercialisation agenda and recognised the constraints of the HRA.
The vision was to deliver housing in order to meet the following objectives:
· To meet local housing need in East Devon;
· To allow the council to act as a key player in housing provision in the district and potentially further afield;
· To facilitate wider stimulation of the economy through delivery of more housing;
· To provide a more commercial dimension to the council’s delivery model;
· To maximise the benefits of the council’s borrowing power and access to affordable finance.
It was noted that to date there had been no acquisitions, either due to propositions not being viable or opportunities being redirected through the HRA.
The Forum discussed in detail the housing company and the following points were raised:
· The housing company was a great opportunity to look into long term investment in social housing.
· Providing permanent accommodation was more cost effective than using temporary accommodation.
· The council should consider purchasing brown field sites in the district on which to build houses.
· Building houses could be tied in with developing skills and training and employing local people in the building industry, therefore also raising earnings and employment in the area.
· There was an opportunity for the housing company to also deliver social good.
· The need for affordable housing was incontestable, with a significant increase of affordable housing in the district required.
· The housing company was not a registered provider and therefore could not bid for government funding. However, this funding could be bid for through the HRA.
· Affordable housing required significant subsidy. This was possible through the HRA but not the current housing company business plan.
· Research should be undertaken and lessons learnt from what other local authorities were doing. It was noted that recently there had been a huge slowdown in investment from these local housing companies.
· There should be direction from the housing company to help self builds. The council could purchase the land and provide planning permission and then assist people to build their own homes, thus creating much needed properties and bringing people together.
· It was important to be clear on whether the housing company was trying to achieve social good or financial reward. The HRA was well placed to deliver social housing as it was a registered provider, therefore how could the housing company deliver housing better than the HRA. If the aim was ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development explained that in 2019 the council appointed consultants to undertake an assessment into future housing needs for East Devon. The brief was specifically concerned with understanding the needs for all sectors of the East Devon community at differing stages through their lives. He presented the executive summary to the forum. The full report could be used as an evidence base for the new Local Plan.
The report showed an acute need for affordable housing in the district, with average salaries in the area being far below average house prices, making house purchases unaffordable for many. There was a huge proportion of people (1,824 households) living in unsuitable housing. In order to meet housing need over the period 2020 to 2040 there was an annual average requirement of 461 affordable homes per year. There was a projected growth of 656 households per year in the district.
The report identified housing needs for all stages of life. The consultants indicated the need for around 6,412 additional sheltered/extra care homes and a minimum addition of 4,827 adapted homes for those with long-term illness or disability in East Devon for the period from 2020 to 2040. It was suggested that the forum be mindful of how the housing company could meet some of these needs.
The forum agreed that this report highlighted and reinforced the real housing needs of East Devon. Housing in the district was becoming more unaffordable. The council should be focusing on delivering what people wanted, for the benefit of the residents of East Devon. There was a need to realign ambitions and aspirations to a much higher housing need figure.
It was noted that housing need in urban areas would always be hard to deliver due to the limited availability of land. It was also important to address housing need in smaller towns and villages and the ability to keep people in their family groups/where they had grown up, with community support. It was important to house people in the right house as well as in the right location.
In response to a question, the Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment outlined the council’s arrangements for spending right to buy receipts and the tight restrictions and regulations around this. The process and schedule for spending of right to buy receipts was regularly reported to the Housing Review Board.
RESOLVED: that the Local Housing Needs Assessment 2020-2040 report be used as the basis for defining where the shortfall is in housing for East Devon.
Review of what the TAFF would like to achieve
The task and finish forum identified there was a clear need for affordable housing in the district, however they felt that they need more information on the options available to deliver this.
RESOLVED: that the forum recognised the clear desire to increase social housing and would look at options to facilitate this, as well as reviewing the legal framework and limitations of the housing company and what it was set up to achieve.
Suggestions for inclusion on the forward plan included:
· Consideration of how other local authorities who had created housing companies operated, and lessons to be learnt.
· Methods for passive house and modular delivery (modern methods of construction) of housing to facilitate provision of affordable housing.
· Look at innovation in the housing sector.
· Delivering on the green policy, social policy and housing policy.