Agenda and draft minutes

Housing Task and Finish Forum - Thursday, 9th September, 2021 2.00 pm

Venue: Online via the Zoom app

Contact: Alethea Thompson  01395 517653; email  athompson@eastdevon.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

22.

Public speaking

Information on public speaking is available online.

 

Minutes:

There were no members of the public wishing to speak.

23.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 207 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 31 March 2021 were recommended for approval.

24.

Declarations of interest

Guidance is available online to Councillors and co-opted members on making declarations of interest.

 

Minutes:

Declarations of interest.

Councillor Geoff Pook, Personal, Involved in the construction industry, Chair of a Community Land Trust and a Community Lead Housing Advisor.

 

Declarations of interest.

Councillor Ian Hall, Personal, Devon County Councillor.  He used to have an allotment on the Millwey Rise estate, Axminster.  He was the Chair of EDDC owned Millwey Rise Community Hall,.  Would possibly be involved in the men's shed project in the future.

 

Declarations of interest.

Councillor Olly Davey, Personal, Exmouth Town Councillor.

 

25.

Matters of urgency

Information on matters of urgency is available online.

 

Minutes:

There were no matters of urgency raised at the meeting.

26.

Confidential/exempt items

To agree any items to be dealt with after the public (including the press) have been excluded.  There are no items which officers recommend should be dealt with in this way.

 

Minutes:

There were no confidential or exempt items.

27.

Building for the future pdf icon PDF 7 MB

Levelling up the South West economy with quality, affordable and sustainable housing.

Minutes:

The Service Lead – Place, Assets and Commercialisation presented an information document from Homes for the South West entitled ‘Building for the Future: levelling up the South West’s economy with quality, affordable and sustainable housing’.  Homes for the South West was a coalition of some of the largest housing associations in the south west and its aim was to provide safe, secure and warm homes.  The document set out the importance of growing the housing stock and with the right support from Government it was committing to a £4billion investment programme to provide 25,000 homes over the next five years.  It was also committing to building 25% of the homes using modern methods of construction.

 

Investment in affordable housing was one of the best ways to support the South West’s economic and social recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.  In most areas in the country there were potential savings in welfare spending by moving families receiving housing benefits into social or affordable rented accommodation, on average £1,250 annually.

 

Building more homes:

·        Creates jobs – both in construction and the supply chain.  Every £1 spent on construction output generated £2.84 in economic activity.

·        Reduces financial pressures on the treasury – for every £1 spent on construction there was a 56p benefit to the Exchequer from increased tax revenues and reduced benefits payments as the activity stimulated employment growth.

·        Supports the levelling up agenda – providing training, skills and opportunities and supporting establishment of new and innovative industries.

·        Increases confidence – building the confidence of consumers, investors and developers would be key to the UK’s economic recovery and would ensure that country kept moving forward.

 

The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment explained that the document resonated with the ambitions the TaFF was trying to progress and advised members to endorse the contents.

28.

Feedback on Working Group meeting of 6 September with Exeter City Living

Verbal update.

Minutes:

The Service Lead – Place, Assets and Commercialisation gave an update on a working group meeting with Exeter City Living.  The working group comprised of Councillors Ledger, Armstrong, Pook and Moulding, the Service Lead – Place, Assets and Commercialisation, the Housing Service Lead, the Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment and the Strategic Lead – Finance.  Representatives from Exeter City Living were the CEO, Development Director and an external architect consultant.

 

Exeter City Living were set up as a development company so they could build on the open market, delivering housing in volume in Exeter, with an emphasis on passivhaus as a design.  As an organisation it had delivered 100 passivhaus schemes, including an extra care facility and a new leisure centre, with 650 units in the pipeline.  There was an availability of land in Exeter (infill sites owned by Exeter City Council (ECC)) and land could also be acquired on the open market.  Funding was from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) through ECC.  Exeter City Living had two employees and all other services were procured through contractors.  They were happy to work with other authorities.

 

The model was to build to passivhaus standard which produced highly energy efficient buildings and showed the benefit of design.  Passivhuas had 5-6% above average build costs and therefore needed to be let as affordable units through the Housing Revenue Account rather than social rent.  However as the running costs of these properties were less the overall outgoings including rent were comparable.  Advantages of passivhaus included 60 year warranties on windows, render and other key components, so ongoing maintenance costs were likely to be lower.  Members were reminded that passivhaus standard was not the only method of constructing carbon neutral buildings.  Advantage South West was looking at creating a framework of developers who used low carbon methods.

 

The main themes were:

·        Definition of affordable – overall running costs and rent.

·        The development model was complex but at the same time straightforward with clear arrangements with ECC and governance, with a very clear business model and objectives.

·        The need for strong, informed and educated leadership – building strong relationships with trust and experience.

·        Climate change.

·        Three ‘C’s – control, change and commercialisation.

 

The Strategic Lead – Finance explained that the Exeter City Living was not significantly different to the Council’s original model, East Devon Homes.  The big difference was that their business plan assumed losses for at least five years.  It was funded from Exeter City Council who helped run the company and used it for development.

 

The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health, Environment stated that there was a clear link between Exeter City Living and TorVista Homes delivered through Torbay Development Agency.  Both companies had taken the brave step to invest a lot of money, provide staffing and allow its housing company to be loss making for the first five years.  It was noted that EDDC did not have the same landholdings to make available for housing development as ECC, but a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.

29.

Affordable Housing TaFF conclusions report pdf icon PDF 310 KB

A plan for increasing outputs of affordable/social housing.

Minutes:

The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment presented a conclusions report which pulled together the work of the TaFF and made a series of suggestions for its primary objective of delivering an increase in the supply of new affordable and social housing. Having explored a variety of housing delivery options it was recognised that there was no single model and adopting a range of delivery vehicles would mostly likely achieve the ambition of a ‘step change’ in the output of affordable/social housing.

 

It was acknowledged that increasing outputs of affordable/social housing required considerable commitment, investment, resources, skills and opportunities.  The provision of affordable housing was costly and social housing even more so.  Developing and sustaining a pipeline of new build housing schemes would require a dedicated task force or project team with a range of skill sets to give the best chance of achieving the stated ambitions. It would require a risk appetite and a financial model that demonstrates that programmes were financially viable over the long-term.

 

It was noted that the Council currently produced 200-300 new affordable homes per year.  The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) contribution to this output was 20-30 homes per annum.  The need for housing undoubtedly existed, with demand outstripping supply and an increase in the housing register and homelessness.    However, there were competing pressures on the HRA from decarbonisation and modernisation projects, tenant safety and property repairs.

 

The TaFF had learnt the following points:

·        Vision - what was to be achieved needed to be supported by a strategy and business model.

·        Ambition – political ambition and clear community support.

·        Investment – schemes were often not financially viable and large investment was required.

·        Capacity & resources – these needed to be sufficient to deliver the ambition.

·        Opportunities – for example land availability and preferred partner status.

·        Risk appetite – this needed to increase.

·        Sustained focus – maintain the drive for delivery of housing to be a priority.

·        Create a pipeline of opportunity.

 

The TaFF had discovered that there was a variety of delivery methods for increasing the output of affordable/social housing and that there was no ‘one size fits all’.  Considerable resources and finance would be required, with a dedicated team to focus on and ensure delivery.  It was advantageous to work in partnership.  There was an opportunity in preparing the Local Plan to ensure that the adopted policy supported and optimised the opportunities for affordable housing delivery.  There were significant capital and revenue implications and a fully costed appraisal had not yet been undertaken.

 

The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment’s report concluded that in order to achieve the TaFF’s ambitions of a ‘step change’ in output of new social/affordable housing the Council needed to adopt all or some of the following recommendations:

 

Ø    Creation of a social housing task force through a combination of new appointments and secondments into a dedicated, single purpose, multi-disciplinary team managed within the Housing Service;

Ø    Confirm increased output of social/affordable housing as a Council Plan priority;

Ø  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.