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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 9th February 2012

 

Report of the Director for Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services

 

Local Housing Strategy 2007-12

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To update the Committee of progress against the Local Housing Strategy Action Plan 2007-12.

Recommendation

1.             That the update be noted.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To meet the Committee's requirement of receiving six-monthly progress reports.

Background

2.             Section 87 of the Local Government Act 2003 required local authorities to produce housing strategies for submission to the Welsh Government.

3.             The Vale of Glamorgan Council's Local Housing Strategy 2007-12 (Appendix 1), took account of both national and local policies and priorities and mainstreamed key elements from the Homelessness Strategy, Black Minority Ethnic (BME) Strategy and Supporting People Operational Plan, was adopted by the Council in 2007 (Cabinet Minute C3376).

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             The Local Housing Strategy 2007-12 is built on the previous Housing Strategy for the Vale of Glamorgan and sets out how the Council has worked in partnership to meet the housing requirements of the area, develop solutions and maximise opportunities to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of residents and future residents of the Vale of Glamorgan.

5.             The Local Housing Strategy 2007-12 was produced to raise standards and improve access to housing which was fundamental to people's quality of life and wellbeing. The Strategy outlined the vision for housing in the Vale from 2007-12 and detailed how the vision would be realised.

6.             The Local Housing Strategy 2007-12 was updated in 2010 to ensure its continued relevance. The updates were approved (C1140) and referred to Scrutiny for six-monthly monitoring (Scrutiny minute 787).

7.             Notable achievements against the updated action plan (Appendix 2) included:

Private Sector Housing

  • Declaration of the Castleland Renewal Area in April 2010. The Castleland Renewal area office is now open to the public. The Housing Improvement Programme has been developed and started in July 2011.
  • Landlord Forum Meetings have been combined with National Landlord Association Branch meetings, two meetings held and future meeting dates arranged.
  • Local Landlord Accreditation Wales Course held in November 2011 and further courses planed for March 2012.
  • Work on going to improve landlord information via Vale of Glamorgan Housing website.
  • An Empty Homes Strategy has been written and a six-week consultation held. Discussions are ongoing between Public Sector Housing and Public Protection in relation to resourcing the strategy.
  • Reported overall energy efficiency improvement across the Vale is 25% over baseline established in 1997. Partnership working is in place to ensure improvement in domestic energy efficiency continues.

Public Sector Housing

  • The Public Sector Housing Department achieved the Vale Equality Standard Level 4 ahead of the 31st March 2011 target date.
  • Significant work has been undertaken to establish a research base in relation to the housing needs of older people.
  • A review of Council owned sheltered housing and significant tenant consultation has been undertaken.
  • 1,000 older people (aged 55+ as per the Welsh Government definition) who live in Cowbridge and Penarth were surveyed in relation to their future housing needs and an assessment of Council and RSL owned sheltered and designated older persons housing has been conducted.
  • The information gathered will contribute to the development of an Older Persons Accommodation Strategy and mapping the need for Extra Care housing in the Vale.
  • Development of extra care housing:
  • Capital funding has been secured and planning approval granted for the Vale of Glamorgan's first extra care scheme on the Theatre Royal site in Barry. The scheme is anticipated to start on site in March 2012.   
  • A proposal for an additional extra care scheme is being considered; the preferred site has been identified. Currently awaiting results of exploration works (highway access, drainage and land ownership of possible ransom strip) before discussions can be undertaken with possible RSL partners.
  • Cabinet have agreed that funding will be made available from the General Fund to move current VCAS customers onto the new TeleV system. Moving from VCAS to TeleV would enable users to access telecare services when needed.

Homelessness, Housing Advice and Supported Housing

  • Educational material, to teach secondary school children about housing and homelessness, was distributed to schools during 2010/11 and a second year of educational programmes has been running from September 2011. This action has also been extended to include pupil referral units with an educational resource.
  • A 'one stop shop' has been developed for young people accessing housing advice and experiencing homelessness. This is a partnership between the Council's Homelessness and Housing Advice Team, Children's Services and Llamau.
  • As part of the Young Person's plan for homelessness, the Council is: reviewing the current supply of accommodation available, developing a gateway into supported accommodation, making the move on strategy more robust and looking at options for shared accommodation in the private rented sector. There is still a need to analyse the issues which young people face in relation to accessing housing, such as; limited housing options, rent levels and prejudice.
  • A legal and procedural review of the issues that prevent women experiencing domestic abuse from staying in their own homes has been completed. A written procedure has been developed and agreed by the Housing Department and Atal Y Fro which will improve information sharing and help women to either remain in their own home or find suitable alternative accommodation.
  • Move-on accommodation, for women ready to move out of the Atal Y Fro refuge; potential sites have been considered and a bid made to the Barry Regeneration Area Fund for property acquisition and building works. Site identified and deal agreed with vendors by United Welsh HA. A revised lower funding bid has been submitted to the Barry Regeneration Fund (BRA) at their request and Social Housing Grant (SHG) agreed to make up the difference in cost. Currently awaiting confirmation from BRA that bid successful and Member consultation will then take place.

8.             In April 2008 the Welsh Government's ‘Plan Rationalisation’ programme removed the requirement for Local Authorities to produce and submit a ‘Local Housing Strategy' at the end of the lifespan of the current Local Housing Strategy.

9.             The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Local Housing Strategy document was written in 2007 (updated in 2010) and set out the Council's vision and direction for housing until 2012. Six monthly updates have been provided to Scrutiny Committee since 2010.

10.        The current Local Housing Strategy is at the end of its five year life span. This will therefore be the final update to Scrutiny Committee against the Action Plan.

11.        The Public Sector Housing department intends to develop a new strategic plan for housing, incorporating; service standards, performance monitoring information, intended outcomes and the Council's Outcome Agreement with the Welsh Government.

12.        A new strategic plan for housing will consider the following:

Welfare Reforms:

  • The Coalition Governments Welfare Reform proposals are likely to have a significant impact on the Council's ability to provide accommodation for people in need. Under the Welfare Reform proposals, social tenants, under state retirement age, will receive housing related benefits based on size of property deemed necessary by the Government. The Coalition Government's Welfare Reform proposals will also impact on existing social tenants currently under occupying according to the Government's formula.
  • The likely outcome of the Welfare Reform proposals is that there will be far more tenants in financial hardship and seeking a move to a smaller property. The availability of smaller properties is limited and the Council is unlikely to be able to provide alternative accommodation to all of those tenants affected by the Welfare Reforms.
  • Homeless applicants are likely to refuse the offer of a social tenancy which is too large for their needs; which will invariably increase the use of bed and breakfasts as temporary accommodation. The associated costs of bed and breakfast are therefore likely to increase. 
  •  The Public Sector Housing and Finance departments are currently assessing the full impact of these proposals.

Affordable Housing:

  • The Vale of Glamorgan has a significant need for affordable housing. The Council's Local Housing Market Assessment 2010 identified overall housing need of 915 affordable housing units per annum.  This increase was principally because overall affordability levels in the County had worsened and the overall supply of current housing stock had reduced (Cabinet Minute C1154).
  • The SHG programme in Wales for 2011-12 has a budget of £69.2 million, a reduction of £31.6million (32%) from 2010-11. This budget has also been top sliced to fund other housing commitments e.g. Physical Adaptation Grant leaving only £41.02 million available to develop new affordable housing schemes across all of Wales.
  • The Vale of Glamorgan’s SHG allocation is as follows:

          2011/12 £1,296,499.51

          2012/13 £1,247,788.38

          2013/14 £1,105,635.27

 

          The full grant allocation has been committed to planned developments. Failure by the Council to ensure that the allocated budget for each year is spent would result in any under spend being redistributed by the Welsh Government to another local authority. 

  • Because of the very low settlement awarded to the Vale of Glamorgan over the three year programme, it is imperative that the Authority ensures that schemes are prioritised appropriately to meet identified housing need and other funding streams are maximised (Cabinet Minute C1365).

Housing in the Rural Vale

  • The Vale of Glamorgan Council's Rural Affordable Housing Needs Survey 2010 provided a detailed analysis of the extent of housing need in the communities of the rural Vale of Glamorgan. It calculated that there is an annual requirement of 250 affordable units per year in the rural Vale (Cabinet minute C1153).
  • In 2010 the Council was successful in bidding for Social Housing Management Grant, from the Welsh Government, to fund a full time post to develop affordable housing in the rural Vale.
  • The Affordable Housing Enabler for the rural Vale has been in post since December 2010. The post has undertaken invaluable work in the past 12 months raising the awareness of the need for affordable housing in the rural Vale and developing a strong evidence base of housing need information.
  • The Affordable Housing Enabler has developed partnerships with rural communities, Community Councils, Councillors and partner agencies. In addition, consultation has been conducted with individual communities. The work currently being undertaken by the Affordable Housing Enabler will contribute to the development of a robust response to the affordable housing needs of rural communities.

13.        A report will be prepared for Cabinet detailing the proposal for developing a new strategic plan.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

14.        No resource implications.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        No legal implications.

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.        The development of the Local Housing Strategy action plan is supportive of the Council's Equal Opportunities ethos as it identifies the mechanisms needed to increase access to quality homes for many people throughout the County.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.        The development of the Local Housing Strategy action plan is supportive of the Council's Equal Opportunities ethos as it identifies the mechanisms needed to increase access to quality homes for many people throughout the county.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.        This report is consistent with the corporate and service area lead objectives of the Council Corporate Objective 'to provide services that meet customer need'.

Policy Framework and Budget

19.        This report is to inform the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.        There has been no individual Ward Member consultation in respect of this report as it is an issue that affects all areas of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

21.        Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection)

Background Papers

Appendix 1 - Local Housing Strategy 2007-12

Appendix 2 - Updated Action Plan

Contact Officer

Jenny Lewington, Housing Strategy Officer

 

Officers Consulted

Tony Jaques - Head of Housing

Pam Toms - Strategy and Supporting People Manager

 

Responsible Officer:

Peter H. Evans, Director, Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services

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