Agenda item

Breckland Tenancy Strategy (Agenda item 10)

Report of Elizabeth Gould, Executive Member for Planning and Environmental Services.

Minutes:

Following an introduction by the Executive Member for Planning & Environmental Services, the Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) presented the report which concerned the adoption of a Tenancy Strategy for Breckland Council.

 

The Localism Act sets out a requirement for the Local Authority to publish a Tenancy Strategy to provide a framework for the occupation of affordable housing within the Breckland District.

 

The Strategy had been developed in consultation by Members of the Housing Task & Finish Group and by the Overview & Scrutiny Commission. Registered providers (Housing Associations) must have regard to a local authority Tenancy Strategy when setting out their tenancy standards for its stock.

 

The Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development was disturbed by the following sentence within the Strategy as it reduced the number of homes available: “At times some stock may be disposed of by Registered Providers to meet their business plan requirements".  He asked if the Housing Team received many of these requests.  In response, the Principal Housing Officer (Strategy & Enabling) advised that there had not been many requests; approximately 12 housing units had been sold last year.  If it was stock that required a great deal of investment it was better business for the Registered Provider to re-invest the monies gained from the sale in existing or for additional housing in the District. 

 

The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman mentioned the debate that had been had at the Housing Task & Finish Group about landlords having their own agenda and the types of units they were prepared to deliver.  There was a wide range of housing needed in the District and landlords were not terribly interested in supplying smaller units particularly in rural areas.  He referred to the Local Lettings Policy which he felt should be re-worded as it was fundamentally important to ensure that everyone in the Breckland area had the opportunity to live in their District if they so wished to attract more nuclear families.

 

The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy & Enabling) agreed that further smaller units were required but it was not all the fault of the Housing Associations, the fault also laid with the developers.  The Allocations Policy would be brought to Cabinet in July and all the aforementioned points had already been taken into account.  The Overview & Scrutiny Commission agreed that the developer would only build what he could sell and that was where Breckland policies failed.  Housing Associations and developers needed to be told what to build and the policies needed to be amended accordingly.

 

The Executive Support Member for Finance & Democratic Services said that this point had been raised at the Housing Task & Finish Group and although everyone acknowledged the problem, the outcome of the discussion had been financial viability.

 

The Executive Member for Internal Services asked how long it had been since the Housing Needs Conditions Survey had been updated.  Members were informed that the Housing Needs Survey had been updated in 2007 but was currently being refreshed.  A Housing Stock Condition Survey had also been carried out in 2008 of which a budget provision had been set aside to update.

 

A question was asked as to whether Housing Associations gave landlords discounts similar to right to buy discounts when selling off these properties.  The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy & Enabling) stated that no discount was given and the properties were sold off at current market value.

 

Mr Bambridge felt that there were a number of villages in the area that had seen too many smaller properties built which had distorted the community.  He urged Members to consider the needs of each individual village in Breckland when refreshing the Housing Needs Survey.  The Chairman pointed out that the new National Planning Framework aimed to determine what was needed in our communities.

 

Options

 

See report.

 

Reasons

 

The recommendation had been made to approve the Tenancy Strategy as it would provide a positive framework to maximise the occupation of affordable housing within the District should Registered Providers move to providing flexible tenures.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that the Breckland Tenancy Strategy be adopted.

Supporting documents: