Agenda item

Housing Strategy - Update on Delivery of Current Priorities

[To receive an update on the delivery of the current Housing Strategy priorities]. 


[Presentation is marked: To Follow]. 


The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy gave a presentation providing an update on the current priorities within the Housing Strategy.  A copy of the presentation is attached to the signed minutes.


The Chair on behalf of the Panel thanked the Service Manager for an interesting and comprehensive presentation. 


A Panel Member complimented the Service Manager on some excellent work detailed within the presentation.  He asked what measures were being taken to ensure that rough sleeping did not increase following the tremendous efforts to reduce the number during the pandemic and when additional funding made available during the pandemic was reduced.  He also referred to the extensive work the Council undertook with partners on ensuring safe and healthy homes.  The West Midlands Fire Service were very keen to strengthen links and relationships with partners.  The Fire Service were able to conduct Safe and Well visits on vulnerable people’s homes.  He asked how the Council were working with the Fire Service to help protect people in their homes.


The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy responded that the Council had a Homelessness Prevention Strategy.  They had also adopted a Temporary Accommodation Action Plan.  This not only looked at the supply of temporary accommodation but also how homelessness could be prevented in the first instance.  As part of this action plan they were also looking at the support which was provided to people who were either at risk of homelessness or who were homeless.  The highest reason for people in Wolverhampton becoming homeless was the end of private sector tenancies.  The second highest reason was related to domestic abuse.  They were very active in their work with landlords to try and prevent someone becoming homeless.  The team in Wolverhampton Homes that provided housing support was being reviewed and what was proposed for the service in the future would provide greater support before someone had to go into temporary accommodation and further beyond if they did.  They were always looking at where improvements could be made and applying for further funding into the future. 


The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy stated that she would ensure the Private Sector Housing Team and the Wolverhampton Homes Team, who did outreach into the private sector, were fully aware of the Fire Service’s ability to carry out Safe and Well visits.  The Panel Member commented that data sharing between organisations was often an obstacle that needed to be overcome.  He cited a good example where a Council and the Fire Service had worked well together.  This was a Council who wrote to every household who had a bin for medical waste offering them a Safe and Well visit by the Fire Service.  In this particular area fires had been reduced by 25%.  Engagement with the Fire Service was important to ensure excellent partnership prevention work.


The Vice-Chair asked about the impact of the Rent with Confidence Scheme to date.  The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy responded that the Rent with Confidence Scheme had gone through some changes.  It had existed in the Council as a programme for approximately four years.  The scheme had been reviewed around 18 months ago, this was because they had not had many landlords come forward to be part of the system.  They had successfully applied for some funding for the program.  They had managed to appoint a new person to manage the new scheme which moved away from individual property ratings.  The new scheme was very much at the early stages of launch.  They were also looking to start a new landlord forum in the near future, which would probably meet virtually initially.  The website would also be launched soon, for which she offered to provide a link, when it was ready.


The Vice-Chair commented that in the private sector housing rented market it was hard to know of the conditions some people were having to live in.  He hoped the Rent with Confidence scheme supporting the tenant and landlord, would help the situation.  He asked about the environmental impact of building high quality homes and the effect on climate change.  He asked if the homes were being built in an environmentally friendly way, if there was a careful choice of materials and the practices on building sites, such as recycling, waste and removal.  In addition he asked if the Council were exploring with the private or social sector about building homes in Wolverhampton.  Land and capacity were clearly issues. 


The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy responded that there was considerable crossover in the points the Vice-Chair had raised, crossing over housing, economics, procurement and employment and skills.  On the quality of homes, a considerable amount came down to the planning and building requirements.  Within the new Council housing that was built, they built to the standards required but also looked to surpass those standards.  They did consider modern methods of construction and passive house (construction concept) development.  They were always looking to see how they could make them more future proof and also to improve the existing housing stock and making it more carbon neutral in the future.  There were obviously some difficulties in terms of costs and what was aspired. Standards were however definitely increasing.  They were always in conversations with procurement about making the best use of local supply chains. 


The Vice Chair asked about the Right to Buy Scheme.  The deadline for the income generated from Right to Buy had been extended from 3 years to 5 years.  He asked how this income was being spent and if the Council was building enough homes with the income.  He asked if any income had been lost because the original three year deadline had been exceeded.  The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy responded that they used the funding at the moment through the Affordable Housing and Conversion Programme and primarily they bought back former right to buy properties.  They did use some of the funds for new builds, but not a great deal.  They didn’t send any of the money back and also spent it well before the original three year deadline.  They were always keen to purchase ground floor flats and four bedroom plus properties or large three bedroom properties that could be made into four bedrooms. They normally purchased about 20-30 places a year.  If a property that had been purchased on the Right to Buy scheme, if it was sold within five years, the Council had the right to make an offer to buy the property first.  It wasn’t an absolute right to buy, but the right to make a first offer.   


The Vice-Chair asked about the actions the Council were taking to resolve damp issues within properties and to resolve issues with pests and vermin.  The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy responded that the new manager of private sector housing at the Council was very passionate about resolving mold and damp issues.  They were working with the University to pro-actively see what actions could be taken in the private housing stock and using enforcement powers. 


The Chief Executive of Wolverhampton Homes responded that he had instructed the staff at Wolverhampton Homes to report back any mold or vermin / pest issues that they saw so remedial action could be taken.  They had also gone back over every complaint or enquiry about damp and mold in the last twelve months.  For any repetitive enquiries they had made a pledge to visit each home to check on the issues.  He was keen to do some research on the matter in homes and was keen to explore the ventilation options available in properties, such as passive ventilation.  He suggested that damp and mold could be an area for scrutiny to review in the future.


A Panel Member thanked the team for their work helping people into temporary accommodation and for treating them with care and respect.


A Panel Member asked if there could be an update on any programme to replace roofs in Wolverhampton Homes managed properties and in particular those suffering with damp and poor ventilation.  There was one particular household he was aware of that was in particular need.  The Chief Executive of Wolverhampton Homes asked for the Panel Member to pass on the details of the particular case.  They were going to be conducting some research on one of the homes to see what works could be done in the future.


A Panel Member referred to a Wolverhampton Homes managed property that had been empty for four years due to a defect.  She asked if there were many in this situation.  The Chief Executive of Wolverhampton Homes responded by asking the Panel Member to pass on the details of the property so he could look into the matter further.  There were not many properties in this situation within their housing stock.        


















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