Housing Task & Finish Group
Verbal update by the Chairman on the Workshop held on 20 January 2012.
Mrs Matthews, Chairman of the Task & Finish Group, informed Members that the Group had received training in December and their work would cover the three strands of Tenancy, Allocation and Homelessness.
Their first meeting of the Group had taken place on 1 February and representatives from three Housing Associations had been in attendance. Discussions had covered:
The changes brought in by the Localism Bill affecting tenancy duration. The Group had been informed that the average tenancy lasted only seven years, this had been surprising. Following discussions with the Housing Associations it had been decided to set a five year tenancy with a one-year introductory period, totalling six years. Two Housing Associations had not signed up to flexible tenure.
Concerns that there were not enough smaller properties available to meet need. This would be compounded if people were encouraged to move out of larger properties. Developers were not building smaller properties.
The Commission Chairman noted that the Housing Needs Register identified a need for apartments, flats and one and two bedroom units. A way had to be found to provide for that need. He was also concerned that Flagship had not signed up to the tenancy strategy as they were one of the Council’s biggest providers.
Mr Carter asked what was being done to bring vacant properties into use. There were many around and it was a waste.
It was noted that the Council was running the ‘Restore’ scheme which offered up to £5,000 to bring properties that had been vacant for longer than six months, up to rentable standard, in return for them being let to someone on the Choice Based Letting scheme, for a minimum of one year.
The Chairman suggested that the scheme should be advertised to all Parish Clerks as they were closest to residents and could provide information on empty properties.
Mr Carter asked if the figures included people who had moved back in with their parents as they were also technically homeless.
The Principal Officer – Housing Options advised that their figures were based on direct approaches. He mentioned that social housing was not the only route to accommodation and there was a need to change people’s mindsets. Other schemes were available, such as shared ownership.
Mr Bambridge was shocked that Housing Associations were not prepared to build the size/style of houses needed.
With regard to tenancy length the Vice-Chairman was concerned that if people knew they would only be in a property for five years they would not invest in it. He thought it would create transient communities and said that it was not the way to deal with bad tenants.
Mrs Matthews explained that if the tenancy was still appropriate and there were no problems then the tenure could be extended after five years, but the Vice-Chairman still thought that psychologically people would not feel secure
Mrs Irving pointed out that the Task & Finish Group had suggested a ten year tenancy, but after listening to the Housing Association representatives and all the facts, had accepted that the five plus one year tenancy was the easier option as it avoided Land Registry issues.
The Principal Officer – Housing Options explained that tenancies over seven years had to be registered, at considerable cost to the Housing Association. He also pointed out that bad tenants could be evicted whatever their tenancy length. At the end of fixed term tenancies the Housing Association would work with the Local Authority to review each tenant.
Mr Bambridge agreed with the Vice-Chairman that short tenancy was not the right way forward. He also said that people were currently reluctant to move out of properties that were too large because they didn’t want to have to leave the area they lived in. Work should be done to make it easier for people to downsize whilst staying in the same area.
The Commission Chairman advised that the Council had to work with the Housing Associations and the reality was that the average tenancy was only seven years. He suggested that the way forward was to find a mechanism to make Planning Policy work to support the Council’s aims and to use S106 agreements and commuted sums to gather the funds to build smaller properties.
The Assistant Director for Commissioning advised that the Council would be refreshing key policy documents and that would be an opportunity to reflect the needs in the district.