Agenda and draft minutes

Strategic Housing Board - Wednesday 14 July 2021 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Centre. View directions

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

An apology for absence was submitted on behalf of Councillor Maddison.  Councillor Kite joined the meeting at the end of the YMCA presentation due to delays on his journey to attend the meeting.

 

The Chairman welcomed Brian Cooke, Director of Housing at the YMCA to the meeting and explained that he had a rolling invitation to attend future meetings of the Board. He also welcomed Jamie van Iersel, Policy Planner, who was attending to give an overview of residential developments that were completed in 2020-21, non-residential development and the outlook for future development. 

2.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest from Members including the terms of any Grant(s) of Dispensation by the Audit Board or by the Chief Officer & Director  of Corporate Services.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest .

3.

Confirmation of the minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Housing Board held on 7 April 2021 and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 208 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Housing Board held on 7 April 2021 as an accurate record.

Minutes:

The Strategic Housing Board considered the minutes of the meeting held on 7 April 2021. The Chairman drew  attention to the undertaking he gave at the last meeting to draft and circulate a narrative for a booklet to publicise the housing services that were available on the Housing Signpost web page and explained that he had circulated an outline document. He also reminded the Board that the link to the Housing Signpost web page to had been circulated to members of the Board for testing.

 

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Housing Board held on 7 April 2021 be confirmed as an accurate record.

 

 

4.

Urgent Items

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

5.

References from Other Committees

There are no references from other committees.

Minutes:

There were no references to from other committees.

6.

YMCA Housing Initiatives pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Minutes:

The Board received a presentation from Brian Cooke, Director of Housing at the YMCA (copy appended to these minutes).

 

Mr Cooke explained the history of the YMCA, its worldwide and UK activities and how its role had changed over the years, and drew attention to its long association with the borough since 1872.  He explained that each YMCA was an individual entity within a wider federation and that the Dartford YMCA worked under the umbrella of YMCA Thames Gateway delivering 7 major activities. Its housing service focussed upon ‘supported and move-on’ housing rather than ‘general needs’, also providing support and assistance, and it sought to promote health and wellbeing, including the operation of gyms, and operated children’s clubs and nurseries among many other initiatives. He outlined the scope of the YMCA and explained that, despite its origins as a Christian organisation for young men, the organisation was non-denominational and inclusive.  He explained the Dartford YMCA’s current provision, including 44 supported rooms, half of which were allocated to Dartford Borough Council, and the way that the YMCA was tackling the challenges of ‘move-on and resettlement’ and the efforts being made to enable clients to build towards moving-on from day one through their work with local authorities and landlords, rent deposit schemes, enabling clients to build a credit history and seeking opportunities to develop affordable housing schemes. He drew attention to the YMCA’s new move-on showcase building in Romford containing 39 self-contained, high specification, units with cheap running costs due to the use of solar panels and excellent fire safety measures. This had been developed on a modular basis at a cost of £80K per unit. He issued an invitation for the Board to visit this facility at some point in the future.  Finally he expanded on other initiatives for Dartford, including the development of a social enterprise with the café at the Round House, working with YMCA England and Wales to secure adequate mental health provision for young people, reviewing the availability of vacant buildings to convert into high quality affordable housing and working with an HMO in Havering to deliver supported and non-supported housing provision.

 

The Director of Housing and Public Protection asked about the YMCA’s strategy for moving people on as he imagined that this could be problematic if the accommodation provided to clients was of such a high quality. Mr Cooke confirmed that planning for people to move on started from day one with the YMCA providing services such as rent deposit schemes, assisting clients to build up a credit history and establishing good relations with local landlords which made them more willing to accept YMCA clients. These measures were designed to break the cycle of homelessness.

 

The Vice-Chairman asked whether the YMCA had received the promised grant from the Council for the Roundhouse and Mr Cooke confirmed that it had, and that the grant had been a ‘game-changer’.

 

The Chairman thanked Mr Cooke for his presentation and noted the activities that the YMCA was carrying out to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Sign Post (Dartford Strategic Housing Mosaic) - Update and Proposed Promotion

The Chairman will provide an oral update on progress on ‘Sign Post’ (Dartford Strategic Housing Mosaic) and lead a discussion of the options for ways to promote it.

Minutes:

The Chairman explained that the Strategic Housing Mosaic (Signpost) had been designed to guide applicants through the initial phases of looking for Housing in the Borough and to signpost the way forward for other people seeking accommodation. He reminded Members that the signpost page on the web site had been available for them to test for some time and that self-build activity had been incorporated into it. He said that the panel of financial advisors who had attended the last meeting were developing their wider network of facilitators across the borough and a web site, and that he hoped that the Signpost could link into this once it was established. He also explained that he had circulated an introduction to publicise what was available on Signpost and the help that was available to people wanting to live in the borough. It was also intended to use leaflets to publicise Signpost. The facility could also be found by typing ‘Dartford Housing Signpost’ into the Google search engine.

 

The Director of Housing and Public Protection agreed that it was important to issue a leaflet to stakeholders, agencies and partners to promote awareness of Signpost. The Vice-Chairman suggested that the leaflet should be republished on an annual basis to ensure that it stayed up-to-date and relevant and suggested that it could be supplied to estate agents as well as other stakeholders. The Director of Housing and Public Protection agreed to liaise with the Chairman and the Communications Team to finalise a draft to be circulated to the Board

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That work on the Dartford Signpost should be progressed as discussed.

8.

Dartford Housing Presentation pdf icon PDF 783 KB

Minutes:

The Strategic Housing Board received a presentation from Jamie van Iersel (copy appended to these minutes) which provided a high level overview on the residential developments that were completed in the 2020-21 financial year along with historic data and completion data on non-residential development. She explained that monitoring was carried out annually by the Planning Policy Team against the Core Strategy and Development Policies Plan that made up Dartford’s current Local Plan, which covered the period 2006-2026. It was noted that 607 new homes had been delivered in 2020/21, mainly at Ebbsfleet and the Northern Gateway, 92% of this was on previously developed land and 84% was on large sites. 69 new homes had been delivered in central Dartford as well as a new care home at West Hill. The homes delivered since 2006 (9,620) was above the Local Housing Need Management Trigger and it was important that this was maintained. In terms of future residential delivery there were a large number of extant planning permissions, with many of these in the Ebbsfleet Valley, however only 2,800 had detailed planning consents. Currently 670 dwellings were under construction.

 

The Board was reminded of the need to be able to demonstrate that it could deliver on its 5 year housing supply. The Board heard that the Council expected to publish its Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results in November and this was based upon completions over a three year period. Turning to non-residential delivery, some 6,031sqm of new community use development had been provided in 2020/21, mainly from school development/extensions. This was much higher than the average of around 4,000sqm. There had been a 22,187sqm net gain in employment floorspace, mainly arising in storage/distribution (class B8) and light/general industry (class B1c & B2), up from c.17,000sqm in the previous year.

 

The Chairman thanked Ms Van Iersel for her presentation and noted that the Government didn’t seem to think that there were enough houses being built in Dartford despite the fact that 55% of the borough was classified as greenbelt land.

 

The Vice-Chairman felt that it was unfair that the HDT was only based on a 3 year rolling average and did not provide credit for out-performance outside of that period. However he felt that the Government was changing its position with increasing ministerial involvement and a realisation that a fuller quantum needed to be applied. He also noted the high proportion of the community use development attributable to education compared to the small amount attributable to health.   He also asked for clarification around the 92% figure for development taking place on previously developed land and whether this meant that 8% of development had taken place on green belt land. It was explained that this was not the case and this 8% related to development on “greenfield” land but that changes to the green belt were currently being examined as part of the annual monitoring report and could be flagged up. It was agreed to look at this at the next meeting of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Housing Policies Update pdf icon PDF 130 KB

To provide an update on the Council’s new housing policies and procedures.

Minutes:

The Strategic Housing Board received a report which detailed recent changes to a number of housing policies which had been adopted by the Cabinet on 24th June 2021:

 

·         Flexible Tenancies

 

The Cabinet had agreed to the ending of ‘flexible tenancies’. These had been introduced in 2013 but a review had concluded that the flexible tenancies had not delivered the anticipated benefits, were costly to administer and had unanticipated legal implications. The Government had also withdrawn support for their continued use and many social landlords were discontinuing their use. The change would affect 679 Council tenants who would instead receive a secure lifetime tenancy.

 

·         Property Conversion Policy

 

The Cabinet had agreed to the introduction of a property conversion policy which would give the Council flexibility to convert some smaller void properties into a larger property, where such opportunities arose, to help to meet the shortfall of such properties available to need the housing needs of larger families on the housing register and to create movement within the housing stock.

 

·         Local Lettings Plan

 

The Cabinet had also adopted a Local Lettings Plan for the Council’s new build properties at Milton Road and Keary Road. The plan was substantially the same as lettings plans previously approved for other new build sites. The Plan would give priority to tenants living in the Swanscombe and Greenhithe areas who have an identified housing need and who either wished to transfer from their existing property because they are overcrowded or wished to downsize.

 

·         Fit and Proper Person Determination and Fees Policy

 

This policy had been produced in response to the new requirement, under Regulations introduced by the Government, for the owner and site managers of relevant mobile homes, to be a ‘fit and proper person’. The policy set out the qualifying criteria and framework for a fit and proper person test and site owners had three months from 1 July until 30 September 2021 to apply for a licence. The Council was able to charge fees for this process, and following guidance recently published by the Government, a proposed fees policy would be submitted to the Cabinet for approval on 22 July 2021.

 

·         Rent Setting for Council Housing

 

When the Council first developed its new build housing programme, and subsequently built new homes at Hill View and Coleridge Road, and purchased private properties on the open market using Right-to-Buy receipts, the decision was made to set rents at the level of maximum Local Housing Allowance (LHA). This was deemed to be affordable to working tenants on lower incomes at that time.  However, since then, LHA levels had increased significantly and it had become apparent that private purchases of homes on the open market for rented housing were becoming unaffordable for working tenants if maximum LHA was charged.  There were also anomalies developing in the rents being charged to neighbouring Council tenants between traditional housing stock and properties acquired by private purchase or as new builds. The Cabinet therefore agreed that rent levels for private acquisitions (where  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Council New Build Housing Programme Update pdf icon PDF 124 KB

To provide an update on the Council’s New Build Housing Programme.

Minutes:

The Head of Housing presented an update on the Council’s new build housing programme. Since 2012 the Council had developed three sites, within its ownership, providing 86 new homes for local people. A further four new build sites totalling 32 new housing units were in progress with the site of the former Mead crescent depot due for completion in July 2021, the former Keary Road garage site and the former garage site at Milton Road were due for completion in October 2021, although there had been some delays with the Keary Road development due to the national shortage of building materials and delays at Milton Road due to issues with BT.  Work at the former garage site at Gilbert Close had been delayed due to the need for further archaeological investigations, problems with the design of the foundations and a need to improve the parking element of the scheme. It was expected that work might begin in August/September 2021 with completion due in May 2023.

 

In addition to new build housing, the Council had acquired 22 properties on the open market for affordable social housing. There were also 30 voids in the Council’s stock which indicated that there was an unprecedented level of movement on the housing register. The Council had also bid, unsuccessfully, to acquire a plot of land in Dartford Town Centre, which would have been used to build new housing. The report also informed the Board of changes to the regulations governing the pooling of housing receipts, including an increase in the proportion of a replacement home that could be funded from Right-to-Buy receipts from 30% to 40% and an extension to the timeframe for spending the receipts from 3 to 5 years.

 

The Vice-Chairman said that whilst this was all very good news it was important not to lose sight of the need to have housing in the places where people wanted it. Most of the current developments and acquisitions were in urban areas but it was important to remember the needs of those in rural areas and to seek innovative solutions or opportunities to meet this need, to take brave decisions and develop community based and ecologically sound projects.

 

          RESOLVED:

 

That the update on the New Build Housing Programme be noted.  

11.

Date of Next Meeting and Future Items

The next meeting is provisionally scheduled to take place at 2.00pm on 13 October 2021.

Minutes:

It was noted that the Board’s next meeting was scheduled to take place at 2.00pm on 13 October 2021.

 

The Chairman said that he was proposing to invite ‘Countryside’ to attend the next meeting but, in view of the Vice-Chairman’s comments about seeking opportunities for innovative community housing projects, he wondered whether it might be possible to invite someone with expertise in this area to the next meeting to share their experience with the Board. The Vice-Chairman agreed to research this to identify someone suitable.