Agenda item

Breckland Tenancy Strategy (Agenda Item 7)

Report of the Director for Commissioning.

Minutes:

The Principal Housing Officer presented the report.  She advised that with the Localism Bill receiving Royal Assent there were many changes on the way.  The Tenancy Strategy was one area where work had started on dealing with those changes.  It was not yet complete and Members’ input was sought to both the Tenancy Strategy and the review of the Allocations Policy.

 

The Council needed to make the best use of the available housing stock and to ensure that it was occupied by the right people.  The Tenancy Strategy addressed the following issues:

 

  1. how long a tenant should occupy a property
  2. what rent they should pay; and
  3. what was the best use for the property

 

Guidelines suggested that tenure should be not less than five years and the suggestion was to set a ten year limit for the Council.  That would only affect new tenancies – not existing ones.  After ten years a review would be held to discuss options and perhaps at that time to encourage tenants to change to a different house size.

 

The driver for affordable rent as opposed to social rent was to raise money for new development.  Flagship Housing Association was not accepting HCA terms and was charging affordable rent.  Developers were also pushing for affordable rent.

 

Members also need to consider the best way to tackle under-occupation?  If tenancy was secure, tenants could not be forced out, but would the Council consider allowing Housing Associations to offer incentives to people to move?

 

Local Lettings – these were usually attached to Legal Agreements and gave priority to local people.  This was an opportunity to set out exactly how the Council wanted to deal with Local Lettings in the new strategy.

 

Tied to the strategy was the Allocations Policy.  The Localism Bill allowed greater freedom for the Council to set its own criteria.  Currently there was an open register and anyone could apply.  The Council could decide to add some priorities and give preference to certain groups if it chose.  This could extend to excluding certain people from applying, such as those with a certain level of savings, or those with a history of anti-social behaviour.  Members were asked to provide input on all of the issues set out.

 

The Chairman reminded Members that part of the function of Scrutiny was to help to shape Policy.  They had an opportunity to look carefully at how to address housing need in the District.

 

He suggested that a Task & Finish Group should be set up to look at the issues.  It should have both rural and Market Town Members.  They needed to understand Planning and Core Strategies as Planning and Housing were inextricably linked. 

The Housing Manager suggested that the Homelessness Business Plan might also be considered by the Task & Finish Group.  It was a matter that could not be separated from the Tenancy and Allocations Policies, as decisions on either would have implications on homelessness.

 

The Chairman agreed and suggested that the overarching areas considered by the Task & Finish Group would be Tenancy, Allocations and Homelessness.  It was a wide remit and volunteers to sit on the T&FG were asked to contact the Committee Officer (Scrutiny & Projects). 

 

In the meantime, it was agreed that the Policies should be moved back on the Forward Plan to allow the Task & Finish Group time for consideration.  The timeframe for the Group would be between three and six months.

 

The Vice-Chairman implored the Council to issue reassurance about the tenancy changes as there was a lot of confusion in the community.  It needed to be made clear that those already in place were safe.

 

The Principal Housing Officer agreed that a strong message needed to be given out about existing security of tenure.

 

The Chairman thanked the Officers for their presentation.

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