Agenda item

Feedback from Member Working Group meeting with Torbay Council's Housing Company representatives

Verbal update

Minutes:

The Service Lead – Place, Assets and Commercialisation advised the Forum that the member working group had met with representatives from Torbay Council’s housing company (Torvista Homes) the previous day.  The TaFF were reminded that the member working group comprised of Councillors Ledger, Thomas and Moulding.  The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment, Strategic Lead – Finance and the Service Lead – Place, Assets and Commercialisation had also attended the meeting.

 

The Service Lead – Place, Assets and Commercialisation explained that Torbay Council had previously undertaken a voluntary transfer of its housing stock so was starting with no social housing.  The housing company (Torvista Homes) took two years to set up and aimed to have stock of 560 units after five years.  It had 360 firm sites, with 200 yet to be identified.  This included land already transferred to the Council and other infill sites which it would look to infill.  It brought lots of delivery methods together and borrowing was from the Council and the PWLB (Public Works Loan Board).  Torbay Council had significant resource working on the project.  It was noted that the Service Lead – Place, Assets and Commercialisation had presented a range of possible mechanisms to grow EDDC stock to the last meeting of the TaFF, and that these had all been broadly considered by Torbay Council.  The key messages to take from the meeting with Torbay Council’s housing company representatives was that in order to be successful the appropriate skills, capacity and finance were required, as well as ‘buy in’ from all.  It was also important to acknowledge that it could take five years for a housing company to be established and to fulfil its objectives.

 

The Chair echoed the comments of the Service Lead – Place, Assets and Commercialisation and remarked that it had been a very interesting meeting.  Torbay Council also offered an incentivising scheme to incentivise people to move to smaller, new developments and help free-up larger housing stock.

 

The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health and Environment commented that Torbay Council had been bold and clearly focused on meeting housing need.  This vision was backed up with £40m finance and the aim of the housing company was to be a social housing provider, as opposed to income generation.  The main driver was poverty.  There was an acceptance of the housing company being loss making in the first five years.  Torvista Homes Ltd was a not for profit, wholly owned subsidiary of TDA and had the advantage of being able to lean on the reliance and ability of TDA.  TDA was created by Torbay Council in 2011.  It was a collection of companies offering a wide range of diversified services spanning business and property services, workspace management and affordable housing.  It was a social enterprise with a board of directors encompassing skills from a range of disciplines.  Members were urged to look at the TDA website.

 

Members agreed that the housing company should be given a chance, with at least a five year opportunity for it to become income generating.  The scale of resource needed to be right, to enable the right people to be in the right place.  Commitment was needed over the medium to long term in order to offer stability and continuity.

 

It was noted that EDDC was a registered provider and had a vehicle in terms of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) to deliver affordable housing, and had been doing this in relatively small numbers.  The HRA had to be retained in surplus and there were existing, competing pressures on the HRA, such as the decarbonisation of all stock over the next 20 years, tenant safety and the delivery of affordable housing.

 

The Portfolio Holder – Sustainable Homes and Communities requested to be included in the member working group and this was agreed by the TaFF.

 

RECOMMENDED:  that Cabinet approve that the Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Homes and Communities be included in the membership of the Member Working Group of the Housing Task and Finish Forum.