The Assistant Director Housing and the Housing Task Force Service Lead presented the Service Plan for 2023 – 2024 and outlined the key challenges for the service under the following headings:
· More affordable homes – a decent home for all.
· Homelessness and rough sleeping.
· Council homes fit for purpose and satisfied tenants
The Assistant Director Housing also advised that:
· The service is currently experiencing very high and growing demand and complexity of demand.
· There is a national issue of damp and mould which is rightly receiving a lot of attention.
· Changes are anticipated due to the forthcoming Social Housing Act.
· The service had to change completely during the covid pandemic and it has taken time to get the service back to normal running pre-covid.
· The service has also experienced personnel challenges, with high levels of staff sickness and difficulties with recruitment.
With regard to the key challenge of more affordable homes, The Housing Task Force Service Lead outlined the work of the Task Force since February 2022 as it seeks to grow the Council’s housing stock and explores building Council’s own housing in order to re-dress the balance following the right to buy scheme.
The Task Force is reviewing land already owned by the Council and had found 11 sites in the District with potential for development. The Task Force is seeking to deliver new carbon neutral homes in Honiton by way of ZedPods.
Regarding the key challenges of homelessness and rough sleeping and Council homes fit for purpose, the Assistant Director Housing made the following points:
· The service is seeing highest ever demand due to the two main reasons of loss of private sector accommodation and family breakdown.
· Officers are having to spend a lot of time with residents linked to issues with mental health.
· The Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy 2024 – 2028 is due for renewal during the year.
· An internal action plan to address damp and mould would be considered at the upcoming meeting of the Housing Review Board.
· The service worked closely with the Poverty Working Group on the winter strategy.
Questions and comments from Members included the following points:
· With regard to the replacement of carpets and curtains at the end of a tenancy, this is under review and where possible fixtures and fittings would be retained.
· Retrofitting of housing stock would bring most homes up to EPC B.
· Regarding the suitable sites for housing provision, the two largest sites are in Honiton with in excess of 50 homes. Other sites are in Sidbury, Exmouth and Sidmouth with potentially 70-80 homes in the pipeline. There is also significant development potential in Axminster which cannot currently proceed until the Natural England embargo is lifted.
· With regard to the waiting list for homes, it was noted that the vast majority on the waiting list are already housed, but are waiting to move to a more appropriate property.
· It was noted that the Housing service is seeing an increase in work required when properties are returned and that the service had negotiated with the Council’s contractor to bring in significant resources to address this issue.
· Members were advised that some people who are homeless do not wish to engage with officers.
· Clarification as to the definition of affordable homes and social homes in that affordable homes are 80% of market rental and social homes are 70% of market rental. The categories also attract different funding.
· In response to a question regarding the complaints to the Housing Ombudsman and the subsequent findings, it was noted that a report on this issue is going to the January Housing Review Board meeting. Further details on this matter are also available on the website.
· Councillors expressed concerns with regard to supporting the most vulnerable residents and it was noted that officers are working proactively to help residents and to encourage vital early engagement.
· With regard to routine maintenance, annual visits to properties are being introduced in order to ensure that the service becomes more proactive.
The Chair thanked the Assistant Director Housing and the Housing Task Force Service Lead for their presentations.
It was noted that the Overview Committee was quorate due to the arrival of a Committee Member.
RECOMMENDATION TO CABINET:
That the Housing Service Plan 2023 -2024 be adopted.