Report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Director of Regeneration and Planning).
Oliver Jones, Strategy and Partnership Lead, and Gary Hall, Head of Homes First, presented the report which responded to a request by the Scrutiny Committee to look in more detail at the barriers young people in the District faced accessing and securing suitable housing options.
It was clarified to the Committee that the report could be considered as a stand-alone informative or used as a platform to consider further scrutiny. During discussion the following points were highlighted:
There was concern that a number of large developments in the district had been granted planning permission with the condition that 40% of the units would be provided as affordable home. Some of those developers had then challenged the requirement for the affordable homes element and successfully reduced and in some cases completely removed the obligation. It was felt that efforts were needed to stop this being the case as it impacted significantly on the provision of affordable homes. There was also concern by Members at the under occupation of larger properties. It was noted that in cases where elderly people moved in to smaller properties, they were often the same properties that are in demand by young people in the district. Members were advised that, on a regular basis, there were approximately 1000 people on the housing waiting list in the district with a very low turn-over of Council stock. It was explained that the Council’s 30 Year Plan for the Housing Revenue Account was due to be presented to the Cabinet and the Plan included proposals to increase the Council’s housing stock by up to 40% which equated to approximately 1400 properties.
Members were advised that the provision of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) was a consideration as part of the overall mix of options, however, caution was taken as the condition of some of the properties was not always up to standard. The Homes First team was looking at all opportunities to respond to the need for housing such as companies who could afford to buy properties on the open market which they could then lease to the Council at affordable Local Housing Allowance rates, and working with the YMCA to provide holistic solutions to housing for young people. The major obstacle for young people when trying to access housing was affordability and employment opportunities was a key factor also. The Council was looking to provide truly affordable social housing.
Members felt the focus at the planning stage should include smaller units, such as one bedroom flats that were suitable for young people. Members were also keen to see more engagement with young people from diverse backgrounds to discuss the issues. It was confirmed that school visits to discuss homelessness issues had been undertaken and there was a broader strategy involving partners, both in the district and neighbouring authorities, to tackle homelessness.
Officers suggested that a separate work stream as part of the Homelessness Strategy could be set up to consult with young people and access to housing. It was confirmed that work on the Council’s Housing Strategy would be underway in the next few weeks and could also include a panel that focused on the issues affecting young people.
The Committee noted that the age at which individuals bought or rented property had increased significantly and that difficulties in both providing a deposit and assuring that mortgage or rental payments could be sustained existed.
1) Note the report; and
2) Note that officers would include a focus on the needs of young people in both the Housing and Homelessness strategies.