Breckland Tenancy Strategy (Agenda Item 9)
Report of the Director of Commissioning.
The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) presented the report and advised that the Council had not previously had a Tenancy Strategy but were required to adopt one by the Localism Act.
The Strategy provided a framework for the allocation of social housing. It had been reviewed by the Housing Task & Finish Group. Initially it had been proposed to have a 10 year tenancy, but after discussion with representatives from Housing Associations that had been amended to a five plus one year introductory tenancy. Supported housing would not be part of the flexible tenure arrangements. Flexible tenancies would lead to more houses being available over time.
Mr Gilbert raised some concerns. He asked about recent reports of Councils moving tenants out of their areas. He was aware that a Nottingham Housing Association had purchased some houses in Watton for Nottingham residents and asked what percentage of the housing stock was being occupied by people from outside the County.
The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) advised that under the changes to the Allocations Policy (which was currently being reviewed) the Council would be able to require tenants to have a local connection. However, she explained that the houses purchased in Watton had not formed part of the affordable allocation of that site and there was nothing to stop a Housing Association buying houses on the open market. Usually, if a Housing Association could not find tenants for its properties, they approached the Local Authority to fill the vacancy from their Register. The housing team had not been informed of any purchases of this nature.
Mr Gilbert then asked about Housing Association properties being sold on because they were in poor repair. What happened to the money from the sale and why weren’t Ward Representatives consulted?
The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) acknowledged that this was a growing problem and a new process had been introduced to ensure that Housing Associations consulted with the Council before disposing of stock. They had to get the Council’s permission and explain why they were selling. If disposals were agreed the Council would seek to have the money re-invested in the District but that was a matter for negotiation. Under the recently agreed scheme, Ward Representatives would be consulted.
Mr Kybird asked if it was the cost of bringing properties up to the agreed Decent Homes Standard that was causing properties to be disposed of and was advised that in recent cases there had been significant structural problems with the houses making disposal a better business option for the organisation concerned. The Officer did not think that the Decent Homes Standard was a big issue. However, there were concerns about the condition of stock that was being allocated when vacant.
Mr Bambridge supported the idea of the Strategy but wanted every effort to be made to assure people that it did not mean they would only be able to occupy a property for five years.
The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) agreed and said that the correct message needed to be delivered. It was the exception to end a tenancy after five years, not the norm, but there would be instances when a move would be required, as inappropriate tenancies could not be encouraged.
With regard to the maintenance of Housing Stock, the Chairman asked if Housing Associations were required to audit the stock they held. He was advised that there was a process in place to ensure that the Council was kept informed.
Mr Rogers noted that the development on the RAF Watton site had more than 200 houses owned by Registered Social Landlords, although there had been no requirement for the higher level percentage of affordable houses because they had been given permission before that policy was adopted.
The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) was aware that the Housing Associations had bought additional stock on that site, but they had given nomination rights to the Council.
The Chairman thanked the Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) for her report, which was noted.
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