Report of the Director - Neighbourhoods
The Strategic Housing Manager presented the Social Housing Models report, which set out the Council’s approved policy and operational framework for the provision of affordable housing, the different delivery models and the current approach to meet housing need.
The Strategic Housing Manager provided an explanation of the definition of affordable housing, which included affordable housing for rent and affordable housing for sale. She said that in 2003 the Council had transferred its housing stock to Metropolitan Housing Thames Valley who were currently the largest registered housing provider in the Borough, of approximately 15 in total. She said that the Council was responsible for managing the allocation of social rented housing in the Borough which it did through the housing register.
The Strategic Housing Manager confirmed that the Council did not own any housing stock nor run a Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and said that most councils who provided council housing stock usually also operated an HRA. Current regulation allowed councils to own up to 200 dwellings without the need to open an HRA and she said that factors supporting a council house building programme usually included; where there was exceptional housing need, and the resultant temporary accommodation costs were a big financial drain, where delivery by existing registered providers was limited, where the council had land assets, where it wished to develop bespoke housing and where it had funds which it wished to invest in affordable housing. She said that council owned housing stock was subject to right to buy.
The Group were informed that the Council had an affordable housing capital budget of £4.5m, the majority of which was a commuted sum from large site developments. The Strategic Housing Manager said that as the council did not have any land to build on, it allocated the funds through the work of its registered housing partners in identifying and acquiring sites either on the open market or through their own land assets and that the Council provided the grant funding to them to develop affordable housing. She said that without land assets the Council was dependent on the cooperation of third parties who had access to land or developers who undertook housing developments in the Borough.
In relation to housing need, the Strategic Housing Manager explained that the Council’s current housing assessment was carried out in 2022 as part of the Local Plans process and identified an unmet need for 294 affordable rented dwellings per year. She said that the total percentage of affordable housing of new completions was 25%
In relation to specialist housing needs, the Strategic Housing Manager explained that provision required both capital and revenue funding and as such Nottinghamshire County Council played a significant role in commissioning support for vulnerable residents.
The Strategic Housing Manager said that there were time limits on the allocation of some commuted sums and that if not allocated within that period they may need to be returned to the original party. The complexity and resources required to set up a council affordable housing build programme were also considered to be prohibitive.
Members of the Group asked about the number of affordable rented properties and the Strategic Housing Manager explained that if a development site delivered 30% affordable housing, of that, 60% would be rented, with a further split between social and affordable rented units. She said that the Council was also now looking to cap affordable rent at local housing allowance levels within S106 agreements.
Members of the Group referred to affordable housing viability issues on development sites and the Strategic Housing Manager said that these were complex and the Council would seek independent review of the feasibility assessment and would also discuss using the ringfenced £4.5m funds to make up shortfalls. The Director Neighbourhoods confirmed that the intervention of the Council generally secured an increase in the number of affordable housing units.
In relation to using the £4.5m funding towards adaptable housing on development sites, the Strategic Housing Manager confirmed that the Council would seek to support adapted provision, including ensuring that older persons’ accommodation developments included level access showers. She said that whilst the Council currently sought to achieve 1% of developments of more than 100 dwellings complying with building regulation requirements M4, it was looking at increasing that figure. She that all of this helped relieve pressure on the disabled facilities grant funds
The Group referred to exceptions to the right to buy option, such as for adapted houses for older people and asked whether the Council could build this type of accommodation. The Strategic Housing Manager said that this provision would require the Council having land to build on and would also necessitate setting up a maintenance and management company. She said that the Council focussed on utilising the development sites being delivered in the Borough to deliver that provision. Councillor Polenta asked for more information about the demand and supply of social housing in the Borough, including affordable housing costs in relation to income levels and the Strategic Housing Manager said that she would provide an update to the Group.
In relation to empty homes in the Borough, the Director of Neighbourhoods advised that there were currently 900 empty homes, with 425 of those empty for 6 months or longer. He said that the Council had an Empty Homes Strategy which was published on its website.
Members of the Group referred to costs associated with shared ownership and thought that it could sometimes cost more than the cost of buying 100% of a property. The Strategic Housing Manager said that part of the affordability was enabling people who wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage to buy 100% of a property to gain a mortgage enabling them to buy a percentage. She said that it was based on a formula and model set by Government.
Member of the Group asked about registered providers in the Borough. The Strategic Housing Manager said appointment was through a competitive bid process run by the developer. Whilst the Council was not involved in that process it did require that the housing provider have a local management presence. In relation to complaints from residents living in registered provider accommodation, the Strategic Housing Manager said that whilst the Council was not directly involved in that process it had close working relationships with other stakeholders, such as the police. The Director for Neighbourhoods confirmed that the Council participated in the local Anti-social Behaviour group and could bring to bear a wide range of controls to manage anti-social behaviour. In relation to residents needing to temporarily move into alternative accommodation whilst repairs or adaptations were made to their home, the Strategic Housing Manager said this was managed by the housing provider and not the Council.
The Strategic Housing Manager said that she would circulate a list of the registered housing providers in the Borough to the Group.
It was RESOLVED that the Communities Scrutiny Group scrutinises the information provided by officers on the Council’s current approach to the provision of social housing.