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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 11 August, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

 

Housing Need in the Vale

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To provide Cabinet with details of the challenges in meeting housing need within the Vale of Glamorgan and to consider the potential opportunities offered by the anticipated borrowing headroom from the new Housing Revenue Account regime.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet notes the current housing need in the Vale of Glamorgan and more widely in Wales.

2.         That Cabinet authorise the Head of Housing and Building Services to commence feasibility work to establish suitable sites to contribute to addressing housing need.

3.         That Cabinet agree to the Head of Housing and Building Services continuing to work with partners to seek funding methods to deliver all types of affordable and accessible housing in the Vale.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure that Cabinet is informed of the varying types of housing need challenges faced within the Vale and more widely in Wales.

2.         To identify suitable sites for additional housing.

3.         The Council’s potential borrowing headroom available through the Housing Revenue Account from April 2015 will only satisfy a limited amount of housing need within the area, therefore all other methods of funding must be considered.

Background

2.         It is universally accepted that the market housing will not provide the types and numbers of housing that are required to satisfy housing need. Intervention in the housing market to deliver 'non market’ products such as affordable, accessible and supported housing is necessary to balance the market in terms of satisfying both known and latent need.

3.         The Council’s Housing Strategy and Support team work with registered social landlords through Welsh Government’s  Social Housing Grant programme and/or Section 106 provision to bring affordable and accessible housing to the Vale.

Accessible and adapted properties:

4.         Individuals may require accessible properties for a number of reasons including physical disability, mobility issues and illness. Households can access assistance to have changes made to their home via a number of routes:

·               Households can access the Council’s Disabled Facilities Grant programme to adapt a property that does not meet their or a member of their family’s needs.

·               Registered social housing providers can apply to Welsh Government through the Physical Adaptation Grant programme to adapt their tenants' homes.

·               The Council funds adaptations for its tenants through the Housing Revenue Account.

Housing Registers

5.         The Homes 4U team based in the Civic Offices currently manages and monitors two registers that capture housing need in the Vale of Glamorgan:

·               A general register for 'general accommodation needs’ based predominantly on bedroom number, need or age designation and;

·               An Accessible Homes Register (AHR); a register of housing need for those people who require an adapted or level access property.

6.         The Accessible Homes Register gives preferential status to those on the list for any property deemed to be appropriate to the needs of the individual on the waiting list.

7.          At present, there is no legal requirement for local authorities or social landlords to have an accessible housing register in Wales. However, the Welsh Government do 'encourage’ the use of them. In the White Paper for the Housing (Wales) Bill, the Welsh Government said that they will “Ensure there is an Accessible Housing Register covering every local authority area, based on good practice and collaborative workingâ€. However, there was nothing on this contained within the Bill when introduced.

8.         An Accessible Housing Register is defined as a register that:

·               Identifies disabled people in need of accessible homes,

·               Identifies accessible properties, their location and characteristics,

·               Enables effective matching of people and suitable homes.

9.         The Welsh Government’s Framework for Action on Independent Living uses the definition of “comprising a common register that is shared between social landlords and is actively managedâ€. In the Vale all registered social landlords participate in the Accessible Homes Register.

10.      Research in 2005 found that only two of the twenty two local authorities in Wales had a robust register and matching system in place, with two others in the process of developing them. Further research in 2009 found substantial evidence of the shortage of adapted and accessible housing and highlighted a number of recommendations for the Welsh Government and local authorities to improve the provision of Accessible Housing Registers.

11.      Research conducted by Shelter Cymru in 2012/13 found that fourteen local authorities had an accessible housing register in their local area, whereas eight had either a matching system of their own or were developing a register. However, there was extensive variation in how the registers (or alternatives) operated.

12.      The main impact of Accessible Housing Registers was identified as ensuring that adapted properties are retained for the use of disabled people and that disabled people are being re-housed in sustainable tenancies.  The biggest risk of not using such a register was that disabled people would not be housed in appropriate accommodation.

13.      Barriers were identified as:

·               Public spending restrictions

·               Housing benefit reforms

·               Cost

·               Expertise

·               Lack of staff resource

·               Limited housing stock

·               Expectation management

·               Lack of leadership

·               Changing service user needs

Relevant Issues and Options

14.      Housing supply is a challenge nationally in terms of good quality affordable housing in all its types. The recently adopted Housing Bill states that tackling the lack of housing supply is a key strategic priority for Welsh Government and expects local authorities and other housing providers to work collaboratively to address this. Welsh Government is also keen that innovative approaches to funding are explored by partnerships when developing local supply strategies.

Housing need in the Vale

15.      Attached at Appendix A are a range of charts that detail the categories of need in terms of the AHR in the Vale.

16.      Individuals' housing needs are assessed by an occupational therapist and categorised in terms of the following:

Green –  stable in existing environment with addition of small items of equipment and adaptation (e.g. £100 equipment, £1,000 minor adaptation) but client wishes to move for personal reasons (e.g. to be near family members)

Amber – existing difficulties ameliorated in existing environment but property not suitable for long term use

Red – the existing property endangering ability to remain in community, unable to look after personal needs to any degree, at risk of further deterioration due to environment.   

17.      On analysis of the AHR the following is evident:

·               There are 310 clients with an accessible housing priority.

·               15 clients are children and 9 of these children are either now or will be wheelchair dependant and need a property of high specification (wheelchair accessible, through floor lifts, high/low raiser baths, hoisting).

·               The remaining 6, whilst not wheelchair users, still need some specifics, i.e. homes without stairs/more than one toilet etc.

·               13 adults are also wheelchair dependant and would need a property of high specification or a property with accessible downstairs living.

·               Between 2/7/2013 – 3/7/2014 officers housed 78 people with a medical priority (predominantly over 55’s).

·               Between 2/7/2013 – 3/7/2014 officers housed two children with complex health needs, the first was a transfer within a Registered Social Landlord’s  stock whereby adaptations were obtained via a Physical Adaptation Grant, freeing up the child’s former home for let via Accessible Homes to another child with complex needs.

·               In the past 5 years officers have housed 4 children & 1 adult with complex needs in a high specification adapted property, all of these allocations were on 100% affordable housing developments (all Newydd Housing Association Sites) where the properties have to meet development quality requirements. (DQR).

·               2 children & 1 adult with non-complex needs have been housed in partially adapted properties, these allocations were developments delivered through Section 106 legal agreement.

·               A further 5 children with non-complex needs have been housed within the existing council stock.

The following statistics are taken form the general housing register

18.      There are 2584 active housing applications at this time.

19.      These are made up primarily of (other areas not captured e.g individuals in rent areas):

8 families needing an additional two or more bedrooms

97 families requiring one extra bedroom

24 people waiting to move on from supported accommodation

134 people/families waiting to downsize due to the impact of benefit reforms

34 Households under occupying and not affected by benefit reforms

522 people/families with no obvious housing need

209 people/families over 55 without medical needs

4 people/families in crisis refuge awaiting housing

310 people/families needing accessible/purpose built housing

622 people/families sharing facilities (in the main this will be children still living at home)

247 non statutory homeless

81 statutory homeless

 

Responding to Need

20.      Affordable housing delivery is predominantly funded via Social Housing Grant (SHG) or through the planning process via Section 106 obligations. Accessible housing is delivered via adapting properties to meet an individual’s need through the range of funding options previously detailed within this report or by including bespoke accessible housing within an affordable housing scheme. Accommodation for individuals with complex needs can rarely be delivered through the Section 106 process as the footprint agreed with developers at planning permission stage is usually too small to satisfy the space requirements suitable for these individuals.  It is far easier for the Council to ensure complex needs accommodation is delivered on 100% affordable housing sites as design work is undertaken with registered social landlords at an early stage in site development.

21.      A further challenge is that of the location of housing requested by applicants. Of the most complex cases on the AHR most of the households want to live in Barry and urban areas of the Vale. The greatest opportunities to develop affordable housing are in the rural Vale. Opportunities for 100% affordable housing sites in Barry are less prevalent. Sometimes it is found that when an accessible home is feasible on a site, there is no one on the AHR who wants to live in that area. For example there are two affordable housing sites currently being planned (2 x 3 bed bungalows in Boverton, and 2 properties in St Athan) however the predominance of need is in Barry.

22.      Applicants' choice of location is often a result of having family/support connections in the area, access to schools, hospitals (E.g. we have a current client who needs to be within a 10 minute air ambulance flying time to UHW).

23.      The development of the Penarth Learning Community as a resource for children with special education needs may in the future create additional demand in and around Penarth.

The Current New Build Process

100% Affordable Housing Sites

·               The Housing Strategy and Support Team aim to develop two accessible homes on all new build 100% affordable housing sites.

·               On 100% affordable housing sites which are funded with SHG the Council have the maximum control over the type of accessible home; design and build of the property.

·               Properties can be purpose built to meet the needs of an individual.

·               This can be costly in terms of the SHG required to fund the development.

·               100% affordable sites are more prevalent in the rural Vale because rural exception sites enable the development of affordable housing in areas where market housing would not be permitted. 

·               For example; Thaw Close is a development in St Mary Church, this was a 100% affordable housing development built on a rural exception site. One of the eight properties was purpose built (through floor lift, accessible bedroom and bathroom included) to meet the needs of a child on the AHR.

 

S106 Sites

·               On S106 sites the properties are built by the market developer. The extent to which properties are accessible is limited due to their specification and the foot print of the building.

·               For example; on the Townmill Rd development in Cowbridge there were 6 units of affordable housing, the only adaptation possible was a downstairs wet room in one of the properties.

·               S106 sites do not require SHG, but it is rarely possible to provide the properties required to meet the housing needs of people on the Accessible Homes Register (AHR).

·               Most housing development in the Vale is by market developers, so although there will be an affordable housing contribution they are not likely to meet the needs of people on the AHR.

 

Opportunities that may arise from Exiting from the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy System

24.      In March 2015 it is anticipated that all eleven stock holding Councils in Wales will exit the Housing Revenue Account subsidy system. Using the current accounting assumptions the Council would be in a position to consider new build options utilising the borrowing headroom available from the exit.

25.      The exit from the HRA subsidy system should be considered as a unique opportunity for the Council to consider how it can directly contribute to the Welsh Government’s objective of increasing housing supply. In terms of the Vale’s strategic priorities the additional finance could be a means by which a proportion of the need for accessible homes could be met

26.      The Housing Revenue Account has a number of small unused garage sites across the Vale that may be suitable for bespoke developments. A feasibility study of such sites commissioned by officers would establish suitability for new build development, with a particular focus on accommodation for individuals with complex needs.

27.      Welsh Government officials require Councils to submit new build proposals to them by the end of October 2014. A mix of affordable housing schemes and small accessible homes schemes would satisfy the Council’s strategic objective of 'the Vale of Glamorgan residents having access to affordable, good quality, suitable housing.’

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

28.      Feasibility and design work associated with new build sites will have resource implications.  Funding would need to be identified within the Housing Revenue Account.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

29.      All new build accommodation would be built to meet sustainable design standards.  Developing homes that meet current housing need improves peoples' lives and sustains communities.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

30.      There are no legal implications at this time.

Crime and Disorder Implications

31.      There are no crime and disorder implications.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

32.      The AHR, allocation process and new build selection process will be subject to an Equality Impact Assessment.

Corporate/Service Objectives

33.      Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to good affordable, good quality, suitable housing and housing advice and support.

Policy Framework and Budget

34.      This report is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

35.      The report presents Vale wide issues, so no specific ward member consultation has been carried out.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

36.      Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Hayley Selway - Head of Visible Services and Housing - Tel: 02920 673117.

 

Officers Consulted

Housing Accountant

Committee Reports Legal

 

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing.

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