Daren Turner, Director of Housing and Investment, and Matt Hillman, Assistant Director, Investment provided an update on the current operating position of the services within the Housing Directorate during current national lockdown arrangements. Members were advised that the City of Lincoln Council constantly reviewed and adapted its service offer to protect our customers, staff, and our partner’s staff. The following main points were covered:
· The Housing Directorate was committed to keep elements of service in place during COVID, sometimes only responding to emergencies, for our most vulnerable customers.
· The Department was carrying out agile working, where work was needed.
· Following the release by the Cabinet Office in March 2021 of a ‘road map’ to gradually move the country into a fully ‘opened’ position potentially by 21 June 2021, the DELTA variant was causing a spike in case numbers across the country which meant that steps to reduce restrictions had been put back until 19 July 2021.
A more detailed update summary of the current position was provided within the Director of Housing and Investment’s report, covering the following areas:
· Housing Strategy
· Safety Advisory Team
· Resident Involvement
· Maintenance (Repairs/Aids & Adaptations/ Fire Compliance)
· Hamilton House
· Homelessness/Housing Solutions
· Rough Sleeper Team
· Tenancy Services/Voids Support
· Lincare/Supported Housing.
Members discussed the content of the report in further detail.
Councillor Vaughan praised officers on the work of the Department during the pandemic.
The following comments/questions emerged from discussions held:
· Now repairs were in-house/localised, would smaller contractors be used for installation of doors/windows and kitchens/bathrooms?
· Officer Response: Contractors would be brought in for kitchen installations in years 5 and 6 as a substantial number of properties would be due refits.
· Would the same kitchen standard be maintained?
· Officer Response: The kitchens would be of a higher specification. Bathrooms would be fitted with multi panels. The housing stock was in a great shape as verified by Savills. It was rewarding to be able to use our own operatives. Contractors would be brought in for larger jobs. The use of smaller contractors would benefit local suppliers. The service aspired to raise the standard of housing stock with the hope that properties would be maintained at an improved standard as tenants showed pride in their homes.
· The Chair of LTP, Mick Barber, welcomed the new way of working with use of local suppliers and contractors. He asked for a timescale for the re-opening of communal areas in sheltered housing.
· Officer Response: This was very difficult to determine due to the risk of infection, which had been avoided to date. The service would wait until the new date given by the government of 19 July 2021 to open these areas. Restrictions in larger communal areas had been eased a little.
· Would tenants receiving kitchen refits be given a choice of kitchen unit colours?
· Officer Response: Yes, Samples would be distributed.
· How effective was communication between housing officers and tenants during COVID?
· Officer Response: Communication had been mainly via telephone. The service wanted to return to the working practice of officers getting out and about in communities. Further technology was planned to use mobile devices to communicate more effectively and mobile working bays would be provided for staff.
Councillor Strengiel requested an update on the Birchwood Boiler House development. Matt Hillman agreed to e mail him directly on this matter.
The Chair reported that the Council was expected to work to the same standard from home as in City Hall to achieve the same service. The continuity of having regular housing officers was important to members of the community to enable them to associate with a familiar face.
1. Councillor Strengiel be provided with an update from officers on the Boiler House project as requested.
2. The current operating conditions of the Housing Service and those proposed post announcement on 21 June 2021 be noted.
3. The verbal update on the delay in relaxing government lockdown restrictions until 19 July 2021 be noted.