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Agenda Item No 4

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 17th April 2013

 

Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

Housing Improvement Programme - Response to Members' Concerns

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise the Committee of any financial implications of the additional works associated with the Welsh Housing Quality Standard programme.

2.             To advise the committee of any financial implications associated with the length of time to let Council properties.

Recommendation

1.             That Members note the contents of the report and the associated actions being considered by the Housing and Building Services and Property Section Teams in relation to the Housing Improvement Programme.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To advise Members of the actions that the Housing and Building Services and Property Section teams are adopting to address the issues associated with the Housing Improvement Programme.

Background

3.             A report was presented to Committee on the 13th of March 2013 (Appendix A), on the operational performance of the Housing Improvement Programme, by the Interim Operational Manager for Asset Management. During that meeting the Members voiced their concerns with the current performance of the Contractors delivering the work particularly in terms of time taken to complete the work. It was stated at the meeting that the agreed completion time of 15 days was being exceeded partly due to unforeseen additional work (e.g. structural works, damp-proofing, etc).  Members were concerned that the additional work would negatively impact on the Housing Improvement business plan and therefore would not be sustainable.  Secondly concerns were specifically raised with the time it was taking to let empty properties and the resultant costs to the Council’s resources as a consequence of keeping people in temporary accommodation, loss of rent and Council Tax implications.

4.             Housing Services have commissioned the Property Section team to manage the Housing Improvement Programme. Property Section have worked with officers from the Housing Team in developing a specification for the Housing Improvement Programme based on initial 10% survey carried out by Savills and a further 70%  top up surveys carried out by our own team to populate the Housing Improvement Programme business plan. The schedule of rates used in the business plan are those quoted by Savills at the time of the initial survey i.e. £4,000 per kitchen, £2,500 per bathroom, £2,500 per rewire and £3,000 per heating system.

Relevant Issues and Options

The Financial Implications of the Additional Works Associated with WHQS

5.        Property Section has carried out an analysis of the current cost per property. This equates to £9250 (including the additional works).  This in fact is a lower cost than Savills original estimates. The Vale’s approach to procurement has resulted in schedules of rates that outperform those of the original business plan. Property Section can therefore confirm that, at present, the additional work is not negatively impacting on business plan profiling. The downside for the additional works is that tenants are disrupted for a lot longer than was originally estimated.

To address these issues it is recommended that:

6.        With our improved property knowledge we ensure Tenant Liaison Officers understand the construction of our properties and likely extent of work in which our tenants live, giving them clear information on the level of disruption that this work may cause.

7.        Whenever possible we continue to offer respite to vulnerable tenants in the form of the guest rooms / communal facilities in our sheltered schemes.

8.        That the Property Section Team ensures contractors are communicating effectively with tenants whilst they are working in their homes and agree improvement plans on these areas.

9.        That the Property Section Team agree a range of improvement measures with each contractor to ensure site management issues are addressed for time related poor performance that is not attributed to additional works.

10.        All vulnerable tenants are contacted on a daily basis by the Tenant Liaison team when contractors are working in their home.

·               The Financial Consequences of our Council Properties being Empty

11.        From the performance information provided to Committee it is recognised that the time taken to improve and let properties is taking too long. Having properties empty presents us with a number of organisational challenges namely, it:

·         does not support our approach to resolving homelessness quickly

·         impacts on our income stream;

·         impacts on the aesthetics of the neighbourhoods in which we work

·         creates dissatisfaction with the people with which we work.

Current Position

12.        There are currently 107 void properties. Collectively these properties have been void for 4,778 days or on average 46 days calendar days.

Financial Consequences

13.        The financial consequences of long term voids can be measured in terms of lost rent income, additional Council Tax liabilities and impact on the Housing general fund.

Rent Loss

14.        The amount of rent lost in 2011/12 was £228k. By the end of 2012/13 the comparative figure is likely to increase to £400k due to the increase in void days whilst void properties are brought up to Welsh Housing Quality Standards.  This increased cost was anticipated and reflected in the 2012/13 HRA revised budget estimate, in which the 2012/13 void budget was increased from £230k to £387k based on projections of void days from the 3rd quarter of 2012/13.  This anticipated decrease in rent has been accounted for in the business plan in both 2012/13 and 2013/14. 

Council Tax Liability

15.        The Housing Department is required to pay Council Tax on properties which have been empty in excess of 6 months. The impact of this has seen a liability on the department of 50% of the Council tax for 39 properties empty for 6 months or more and this equates to £6,272.02 to the end of this financial year.

General Fund

16.        The Department has seen little in the way of consequential direct costs to the general fund mainly due to the fact that the majority of clients placed in B&B are single people and the Homelessness service in the main rehouses that client group into the private sector due to the limited supply of 1 bedroomed council accommodation. Families are not rehoused into B&B unless in an absolute emergency and are then provided alternative suitable temporary accommodation usually paid for from Housing Benefits.

17.        However there is an impact on the Department KPI’s for the homelessness service which has seen homeless applicants remaining in temporary accommodation longer throughout the year. There is also the impact on families who are anxious to move quickly into more suitable permanent accommodation and the knock on effect to families and children.

18.        To address the concerns with the current approach to empty property management. The Head of Housing and Building Services will undertake a wholesale review of the current voids process.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

19.        There are no additional resource requirements associated with this paper however reviewing our approach to the Housing Improvement Programme may result in resource implications.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

20.        There are no implications.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

21.        There are no Legal Implications at this time.

Crime and Disorder Implications

22.        Long term empty properties can have an adverse impact on the perception of residents living on our estates and can lead to increased levels of vandalism and crime.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

23.        Improving our approach to housing improvement and void management will benefit all parts of the community for which we serve.

Corporate/Service Objectives

24.        Deliver the Council House Improvement Programme to bring the housing stock to a modern internal standard and good structural condition and achieve the WHQS. (2016/17).

Policy Framework and Budget

25.        This report is within the policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26.        As this is a Vale wide issue no specific Ward Member consultation has been undertaken.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Hayley Selway -Head of Housing and Building Services

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager – Property Section

Operational Manager – Legal Services

Accountant – Housing and Building Services

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

 

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