Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning introduced the item and stated that the Strategy aimed to make the best use of stock provision to meet the housing needs of communities and set clear guidance to other registered providers so that all housing in the district was used to its best ability. The Strategy was to guide social landlords using best practice. Private registered providers were required to publish their own tenancy policies but needed to take account of the Local Authority’s Tenancy Strategy. He also referred Members to page 128 of the agenda which gave rent averages for the district.
The Interim Strategic Director for Growth then gave the Committee details on the Strategy. The Localism Act 2011 required all Local Housing Authorities to produce a Tenancy Strategy to help guide social registered providers which operate in their area to make decisions about what type of tenancies to offer. The Council’s current Tenancy Strategy was published in 2013. The use of assured or secure and flexible tenancies appropriate to the household’s need or property type was supported by the Council. Where flexible tenancies were used the Council wished to see fixed term tenancies of five years or more. Longer term tenancies tended to create more buy-in by tenants from a financial and social aspect.
Consultation had taken place with all 25 private registered providers of social housing across South Kesteven. Two responses had been received from Cross Keys Homes and Muir Group and these were outlined in the report. Overall the responses were supportive of the criteria for use of fixed term tenancies. Pay to Stay was no longer supported nationally and had been removed from the Strategy. Other amendments to the Strategy were outlined under section 7 and section 5. Subject to comments made by the Committee the Tenancy Strategy was due to go to Cabinet for approval in March 2020.
Discussion on the Strategy followed with the following comments/questions raised:
- SHMA stands for Strategic Housing Market Assessment.
- It was felt that there had been a poor response to the consultation. The Interim Strategic Director for Growth indicated that close working was carried out with some of the registered providers who were already familiar with the document.
- The amendments to section 7, following consultation with Housing Providers – ‘Tenants with large rent arrears (threshold amount would need to be set)’ changed to ‘Tenants with large rent arrears (the threshold amount to align with the amount used by our Rents Team in the serving of a notice seeking possession of the property)’ had not yet been made to the draft strategy presented to Members, as officers were awaiting feedback from the Committee first. These changes would be made following the meeting.
- Facts and figures contained in the document were taken from the 2014 Peterborough Sub Regional Strategic Housing Market Assessment of which South Kesteven was a part.
- Members asked whether the picture on page 132 of the agenda (page 6 of the Tenancy Strategy) could be changed, as it contained elements specific to the American housing market.
- Members requested that the final strategy contain fewer acronyms.
A reference was made to not having lifetime secure tenancies and therefore protecting Council stock. The Interim Strategic Director Growth said that as a Local Housing Authority the Council could not offer assured tenancies, they had to be secured as required under the Housing Act 1985. Social Housing Landlords could offer these types of tenancies but there was a large turnover and a tendency towards shorter term tenancies. A longer tenancy gave more security, with tenants more likely to invest more in the property.
Updates in relation to the impact of changes made to the Strategy were discussed and Members agreed to receive any updates by e-mail.
The recommendations were proposed, seconded and agreed by the Committee.
The Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommends:
1) That Cabinet approves the amendments to the Tenancy Strategy as set out in 2.5 and 2.6 of the report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning.
2) That Cabinet adopts the updated policy subject to the rewording of 4.1, the reduction of acronyms and that a different picture is used on page 6.
3) That the Committee receives annual updates (by e-mail) on the impact of changes to the Strategy.