Daren Turner, Director of Housing and Investment;
a. presented a report to update Members on the current position regarding the sustainment of tenancies, as requested by the previous Chairman of this Committee
b. advised that Tenancy sustainment continued to be a key priority within the Directorate of Housing and Investment (DHI), working towards the implementation of the Sustainment Team on 1 April 2022, although this was later than anticipated, due to delays with recruitment during Covid-19 and securing a job evaluation panel due to lack of Union representation
c. highlighted that three offers of employment on two-year contracts had been made to two external and one internal individual with a wealth of experience across the support and voluntary sector
d. reported that the initial plan was for a robust process to be put in place for pre-tenancy work, with a focus on vulnerable applicants, the aim to ensure that tenants were set up to thrive in their tenancy offering assistance with welfare benefits forms, signposting to necessary support and assistance with furniture through local charities
e. added that the team would be an advocacy and signposting service for vulnerable tenants who required help with support in times of crisis
f. presented figures on the current position regarding sustainment of tenancies and enforcement action; eviction used only as a last resort, as detailed at paragraph 3 of the officer’s report
g. requested that members note the actions taken to support tenants in order to improve levels of tenancy sustainment.
Members discussed the content of the report in further detail.
Councillor Nannestad commented that evictions were very costly for the authority, therefore it was advantageous to offer support to tenants rather than go through a lengthy court process.
Members welcomed the introduction of the Sustainment Team to assist residents in maintaining their tenancies.
The following discussions took place:
· Question: Would care leaders who were entitled to council tenancies get additional support?
· Response: Yes they would be particularly targeted.
· Comment: Concerns were raised regarding figures provided within the officer’s report stating that the current amount of arrears was over £1million, and that 275 properties were affected by the under occupancy charge.
· Response: The amount of rent arrears was not high compared to the huge amount of rent collected per year. The Tenancy Sustainment initiative should drive down this figure. As household costs such as energy bills increased it would get worse.
In terms of under-occupancy, the Revenues and Benefit Team worked with those tenants struggling to find smaller tenancies to obtain Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to help supplement their rent.
· Question: Could a further breakdown be provided on debt levels, for example, how customers in receipt of Universal Credit were affected? This could act as a pointer to where greatest support was needed.
· Response: 90% of debt increases currently related to Universal Credit. A further breakdown would be provided.
· Comment: There were tenants in under occupied properties on DHP who chose not to be on the Council waiting list as they did not wish to move, at the expense of those residents with special needs requiring larger properties and extra space.
· Response: A review of DHP payments was carried out each year. Those tenants in under occupied properties who were not actively seeking alternative accommodation were at risk of having DHP reduced.
· Question: Was it possible to provide a payment incentive to encourage people to down-size? Many elderly residents may need help to move.
· Response: There was a scheme currently in operation to offer support to tenant’s to down-size. Officers were looking to see whether other incentives could be brought forward. The Housing Department also promoted good neighbour schemes in supported housing accommodation. Also, people’s expectations had changed, some properties popular in the 70’s were no longer suited.
Mick Barber, Chair of LTP requested that LTP members be involved in the remodelling of existing sheltered accommodation and good neighbour schemes. A lot of sheltered accommodation was labelled as bed-sits whereas it was indeed independent living. LTP wished to make their contribution.
Councillor Vaughan asked whether the six people evicted since October 2021 were aware at the time of the Housing Appeals Panel?
Daren Turner, Director of Housing and Investment confirmed the clients would have been made aware. He added that some people with complex needs were beyond the help of the Council as a housing landlord. In such circumstances it was kinder to take away the tenancy in order for the people to get the proper professional help they needed.
· Comment: The housing authority had a duty to house homeless people with these complex needs.
· Response: We did house vulnerable homeless people in temporary move-on accommodation with assistance from support workers, with the aim of them becoming re-engaged in the community.
1. A further update on progress on Tenancy Sustainment be presented to the Sub-Committee towards the end of the calendar year.
2. A further breakdown on the source of debt levels be provided to Committee members.
3. The content of the report and members comments be noted with thanks.