Agenda and draft minutes

Strategic Housing Board - Wednesday 13 October 2021 2.00 pm

Venue: Board Room - Civic Centre. View directions

Items
No. Item

12.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillor Ann Allen and Brian Cooke, Director of Housing at the YMCA, due to bereavement. 

 

The Board was due to receive a presentation from Gus Zogolovitch, Director of Unboxed Homes, who was attending the meeting remotely via Zoom. Unfortunately the technology could not be made to work and Mr Zogolovitch was unable to hear the proceedings or to deliver his presentation. The item was therefore deferred, with apologies, and the Chairman said that he would invite Mr Zogolovitch to attend the next meeting instead.

 

13.

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.

14.

Confirmation of the minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Housing Board held on 14 July 2021 and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 223 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Housing Board held on 14 July 2021 as an accurate record.

Minutes:

The Strategic Housing Board considered the minutes of the meeting held on 14 July 2021.

 

Under matters arising, the Chairman said that he had been in touch with Brian Downton, from Downton Associates, who had attended the Board’s meeting on 7 April 2021. Mr Downton had confirmed that the panel of local mortgage managers were putting together their own web site and that once this was ready, this could be linked to the Council’s ‘Sign Post’. The Chairman also confirmed that following the invitation issued by Brian Cooke at the last meeting, he had attended the grand opening of the YMCA building in Romford and been very impressed.  

 

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Housing Board held on 14 July 2021 be confirmed as an accurate record.

 

 

15.

Urgent Items

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

16.

References from Other Committees

There are no references from other committees.

Minutes:

There were no references to from other committees.

17.

Self-build, Custom-build and Property Development with Social Impact

At the invitation of the Chairman, Gus Zogolovitch, from Unboxed Homes, will attend the meeting via Zoom to discuss his experience of the self-build, custom-build and property development with social impact housing market.

Minutes:

This item was deferred to the next meeting for the reasons stated in minute 12 above.

18.

Sign Post (Dartford Strategic Housing Mosaic) - Update

The Chairman will provide an oral update on progress on ‘Sign Post’ (Dartford Strategic Housing Mosaic).

Minutes:

The Housing Development and Policy Manager circulated a leaflet that had been printed since the last meeting which had been given to key partners in the housing sector to “Signpost” residents as to how they can access housing in the Borough. The Chairman explained that the leaflet was designed to guide people looking for a home in the area to the appropriate housing contact and a decision needed to be taken on how to publicise the leaflet and as to whether this should be via internal communications, press communications, or through local organisations such as the Citizens Advice and Libraries.

 

The Housing Development and Policy Manager explained that she had approached the Library and been told that they were unable to hold leaflets. The Vice-Chairman said that he felt that this could not be the case and that he would raise this with Kent County Council. He felt that publicity should be through the Council’s internal communications resources and regular posts on social media, including Dartford Together, and through local organisations. The Chairman suggested that these could also include local faith groups and community wardens as well as organisations such as Citizens Advice and YMCA and that he wanted to be as proactive as possible in making information available. The Board also noted that the leaflet implied a focus on homelessness but that the concept behind ‘Signpost’ was to provide information across a much wider spectrum of people seeking to live in Dartford and that perhaps the leaflet could be revised accordingly. The Housing Development and Policy Manager said that only 250 leaflets had been printed so far and that it would be possible to make some changes. The Chairman agreed to revisit the wording of the first paragraph of the leaflet and the Director of Housing & Public Protection said that he would liaise with the Communications Team about arrangements to promote the leaflet.  

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That progress on the Dartford Signpost be noted.

 

19.

Feedback from the End to Rough Sleeping Seminar

Minutes:

The Strategic Housing Board received feedback from Toni Carter, Housing Solutions & Private Sector Manager, on the recent ‘End to Rough Sleeping’ seminar held by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which had also been attended by the Leader of the Council, the Board Chairman and senior housing officers. She said that the DLUHC seminar was held to encourage buy-in from local authority Members but also celebrated the work carried out during lockdown to get rough sleepers off of the streets and into accommodation. In Dartford temporary emergency accommodation was provided for around 120 people who were either sleeping-rough, or in danger of ending up on the streets. Of this number the Council had successfully moved on the vast majority but was still providing accommodation for 7 people. This demonstrated that the target to end rough sleeping was achievable and the Council had an Action Plan which included a target for zero rough-sleepers by the time of the annual snapshot of rough-sleepers on 16 November. Unfortunately delivering this target was looking challenging as there were currently around 10 people sleeping rough, of which 3 did not have settled status in the UK and for which the Council had no duty to house. The Council was working to provide accommodation for the remaining 7 rough sleepers, with Porchlight and the Winter Shelter (who provided support but could no longer provide temporary accommodation due to a shortage of volunteers), who had co-occuring conditions including substance abuse and mental health difficulties and were difficult to house. The only way to get them off of the streets was likely to be if the Council provided accommodation.

 

The Housing Solutions & Private Sector Manager explained the winter model that the Council had put in place last year for a 4 month period, including the use of a HMO was a success but explained that the Council had not received any additional funding for this. This year a much shorter period of support would be operated, during the period of the worst weather. It was vital for key partners such as the churches to provide support and they would do so by providing food, shopping services and ‘buddying’ schemes but could not provide accommodation. The HMO was again being used to provide medium term accommodation but it was still proving necessary for the Council to ‘spot-purchase’ nightly accommodation for rough sleepers.  One of the challenges faced in trying to eradicate rough sleepers was an unwillingness by the individual to engage with the Council. This also applied to the small number of people who continued to sleep on the streets in Dartford, whose varying needs were described to the Board. The approach to dealing with the 3 people to whom the Council owed no duty to house was discussed and it was noted that the Home Office had no interest in assisting and that the police were unable to act, although they had opened a case. The Council had no further powers that it could use,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.

20.

The Social Housing White Paper - Summary of Proposals pdf icon PDF 214 KB

Minutes:

The Head of Housing Services introduced a report which summarised the proposals contained in the Social Housing White Paper which had been published in November 2020 building on the Social Housing Green Paper (‘A new deal for Social Housing’). The report set out the five key principles contained in the Green Paper, the 7 principles contained in the White Paper and the content of the Charter for Social Housing Residents which set out a new vision for the way that social housing residents should be treated by way of seven themes.

 

Chapter 7 of the Charter had particular relevance to the Strategic Housing Board:

 

‘To be supported to take a first step to ownership, so that it is a ladder to other opportunities, should circumstances allow’.

 

This also detailed the following actions that Landlords should consider:

 

·        Local authorities to assess viability of building more homes

·        Assess viability of using new finance streams for supported housing

·        Assess viability of new shared ownership model (10% stake and 10-year repair- free period)

·        Assess viability of right to shared ownership on new grant funded homes

·        Improve transparency of billing and value for money to leaseholders.

 

The housing team was currently preparing a detailed action plan to address all the actions emanating from the White Paper but in relation to the actions required regarding shared ownership, the Council did not develop this tenure for new build housing, only affordable rented products to meet identified housing need.  Funding conditions for the Government’s 1-4-1 scheme, which was used to fund the Council’s new build programme, only allowed affordable rented products to be built.  The majority of shared ownership products in Dartford were provided by housing associations and much of the affordable housing at the Eastern Quarry site was shared ownership or other forms of intermediate housing at a ratio of 80/20 intermediate to affordable rent across the whole site; providing a sizeable number of new homes to buy. The Council was waiting for further information to be released but authorities were being encouraged to ascertain the views of their tenants.

 

The Director of Housing & Public Protection said that the White Paper primarily focussed on how social tenants should be treated and very little of the content was strategic. Authorities were being asked by the Regulator to carry out surveys of what they had already done but this would not constitute the old audit and inspection regime as such. There was however uncertainty over how this might develop.

 

The Board felt that the Tenants and Leaseholders Joint Liaison Group should have an input into this work and the fact that the Council had a well-established consultative forum put the Council ahead of the game. Further reports would be submitted to future committee meetings as this work progressed.

 

          RESOLVED:

 

That the report be noted.

 

21.

Update on the Development of a Private Sector Renewal Strategy pdf icon PDF 222 KB

Minutes:

The Housing Development & Policy Manager provided an update on the development of the Council’s new Private Sector Renewal Strategy (PSRS) following a review of private housing stock in the borough. Since the Board last considered this matter on 7 April 2021 the Private Sector Housing team had made some progress with the development of the PSRS. The sections of the PSRS setting out the introduction, legislative framework, strategic context and Borough demographics had been framed, but the final draft, including the development of the strategic priorities, had not been completed, mainly due to a lack of staff resources within the Private Sector Housing team and the need to recruit new officers to various roles. These issues had now been resolved. It was aimed to complete the PSRS in the New Year 2022 and would help to ensure that Council resources were targeted at areas that need it most and to assist in tackling fuel poverty.  The PSRS would also set out the types of assistance that would be made available to households for housing renewal, for example grants to assist in bringing properties up to a decent standard and help with renewable energy initiatives/works and would build upon the Council’s previous renewal strategy.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That the report be noted.

  

22.

Council New Build Housing Programme Update pdf icon PDF 124 KB

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 had received planning permission. Since the last meeting 3 x 1 bedroom bungalows, all wheelchair accessible units, had been completed in August 2021 on the site of the former Mead crescent depot and new tenants had moved in. However there had been delays to work on other sites due to the national shortage of materials, delays to deliveries and a shortage of labour. Despite this, units on the former Keary Road garage site and the former garage site at Milton Road were due for completion in November 2021.  As previously reported, work at the former garage site at Gilbert Close had been delayed due to the need for further archaeological investigations and problems with the design of the foundations but some progress had been made including the installation of main entrance gates and the commencement of some pre-start planning conditions.  However, at present, there was no firm date for starting building work.

 

In addition to new build housing, the Council had, since July 2020, acquired 22 properties on the open market for affordable social housing. The Cabinet had recently agreed to increase the amount that could be spent on individual purchases from £300,000 to £500,000 under the Council’s Scheme of Delegations, which would improve the Council’s ability to compete for acquisitions on the open market. The Council was currently interested in acquiring three properties, including 5 and 6 bedroomed houses.

 

The Council had also bid, unsuccessfully, to acquire two separate plots of land for development and would continue to try and identify suitable land for development on Council, publicly owned and private land where possible, however it had proved difficult to find suitable HRA council owned land for housing development. The report also reminded 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. To date, as a participant in the 1-4-1 scheme the Council had successfully spent £13.9m delivering 86 new homes for local people and a further £5m on the purchase of 22 market properties since July 2020.

 

The Vice-Chairman asked for clarification on the policy regarding the installation of electrical vehicle charging points as part of new developments and whether the requirement was for there to be one charging point for each allocated parking space. The Head of Planning Services explained that, whilst this was not planning policy, this was designed to future-proof properties as it was cheaper to install the ducting and connections during new developments rather than to retro-fit the infrastructure.

 

The Vice-Chairman also sought, and received, more information on the archaeological demands  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Date of Next Meeting and Future Items

The next meeting is scheduled to take place at 2.00pm on 28 January 2022.

Minutes:

It was noted that the Board’s next meeting was scheduled to take place at 2.00pm on 28 January 2022.

 

The Chairman said that he would invite Mr Zogolovitch to attend the next meeting, if available, to give his presentation that had had to be deferred.

 

The Vice-Chairman noted that since the formation of the Board, two new political groups had been established on the Council and he felt that it might be appropriate for one or other of the Groups to be represented on the Board. The Democratic Services Manager reminded him that the composition of Board membership was subject to the statutory proportionality rules, however it was open to the Board to appoint observers to attend in the same way that Mr Cooke from the YMCA attended meetings.