Agenda item

Housing Needs (Agenda Item 14)

To receive a presentation from the Council’s Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling).


The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) gave Members a PowerPoint presentation.


She explained that there was a legal requirement for the Council to know its Housing Need.  Every five years, in partnership with other authorities (to keep costs down) a ‘snapshot’ was taken, using various sources of information, to assess that need.


The current Housing Register indicated a need for 964 houses per year for the next five years.  The Register worked on a points based system.  There were over 3,000 people on the Register and that number was slowly increasing.


Allocation of housing within an area required ‘Local Connection’.  This could be through living in the area, working in the area, or having relatives requiring care living in the area.  The length of time of association was reflected in the points allocation, as was length of time on the Register.


There was a low turnover of housing stock in the district and 60% of villages had no vacancies in the current year.


The Housing Register provided a lot of information and that would still be available when the Council changed to Choice Based Lettings, which was expected to ‘go live’ soon.  Hometrack, which was a web based system, provided a lot of additional, up-to-date information, including house price to income ratio and average house prices in a Ward area.


This additional information would be used in future to provide an explanation for why certain sites were being supported for development.  It was not just a matter of providing affordable housing, it was having the right type of housing in the right place. 


Due to the current financial climate there was no funding coming forward and future affordable housing would have to be procured through developers.


Members asked the following questions:


Did the number of people on the Register mean that there were 3,000 homeless people in the district?

The Register included those currently living with parents; in poor quality housing; or needing sheltered or adapted housing as well as those that were actually homeless.


Do people in Private Rented accommodation qualify for Housing Benefit?

Some did – it was means tested, but if it was a single person they would only get Single Room Rate.  Current plans to cap Housing Benefit would mean more pressure on the Housing Register.


Would that pressure bring rents down?

If there was not enough affordable housing it might push Private rents up.  Currently only 6% of properties in Breckland were privately rented.  Housing Association rents were governed by the Government and would rise to 80% of private housing rent.


Can anyone apply for accommodation under the Choice Based Lettings scheme?

Anyone could apply to go on the Register but what they could bid for would be controlled.


Would vacancies in a Parish go to someone in that Parish rather than someone from outside?

It would depend on whether the housing was tied by a legal agreement requiring a local connection. 


Is there any way that the Council could make it possible for people to own their own properties?

There were currently some shared ownership products.  It would be very difficult for the Council to put capital into mortgages and so they were trying to concentrate on affordable homes, working with Partners to give opportunities where possible.  The cost of building properties for affordable housing was high.  Housing Associations had to borrow money and charge rent to recover that.  It was difficult to keep up with the supply of affordable housing.


There was more affordable housing in Watton than was needed.  Would Officers look more favourably on Developers in Watton providing commuted sums towards affordable housing in other areas?

Yes, or look for more specialist housing.


During the debate on an application including affordable housing it had been said that living in a village was a luxury – do you agree?

No.  If someone could afford to buy they could choose to buy anywhere.  If they had to live in affordable housing why should that choice be limited?  Rural affordable housing units were not hard to let and the people that occupied them often played an important part in village life.  There was a need to meet people’s aspirations as well as their actual needs.


Does the LDF policy of removing Settlement Boundaries affect the availability of accommodation?

It did have an impact but there was an exception site policy. 


The Chairman thanked the Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) for her presentation.