Agenda item

Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2017-19

This report sets out the background to Medway Council’s Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2017-19, the consultation process, and the refinement of the strategy based on feedback received.




Members considered a report which set out the background to the Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2017-19, the consultation process, and the refinement of the strategy based on feedback received.


The comments of the Committee would be reported to Cabinet on 8 August 2017.


The following issues were discussed:


·         Funding to deliver the Strategy


In response to a question about whether there was sufficient funding to deliver the Strategy, the Head of Strategic Housing replied that none of the actions would require additional funding. The Strategy would be funded from existing resources, partner contributions and also external funding would be explored.


A Member welcomed the Strategy as a step in the right direction.


·         Supply of affordable homes/S106 agreements


Noting the aim in the Housing Strategy to increase the supply of affordable homes, a Member noted that numbers of affordable homes in recent years had been very low. The point was also made that affordable housing covered a range of types of housing and what was really needed was a significant increase in social housing. The Head of Strategic Housing acknowledged the supply of social housing had fallen since 2012 but supply had increased this year with 220 units projected to be delivered in 2017-18, including some shared ownership.


Another Member commented that the biggest threat to the delivery of affordable homes was developers using viability reports to successfully argue that the recommended contributions made the development non-viable, leading to affordable home numbers it being renegotiated. The extent of liaison with the planning team on this issue was queried and the Head of Strategic Housing advised that the Affordable Housing Officer liaised with the planners and developers and there was a robust process in place to scrutinise viability reports. The Council also learnt from other councils about best practice in this area. If necessary external specialists would be brought in to ensure affordable housing was delivered in respect of the Council’s regeneration projects.


A Member referred to a large developer who had not delivered on a S106 agreement and asked if this had been shared with other councils. Members were advised that this case would be raised in future discussions with Government bodies.


·         Intentionally homeless


A Member asked for figures of people deemed intentionally homeless as opposed to homeless. As the figure was not available an undertaking was given to provide the information. The focus of the Strategy was to prevent homelessness as far as possible. The housing team also worked with colleagues in Children and Adults so that joint assessments were carried out when people presented as homeless.


·         Home bonds scheme


Referring to difficulties people were finding in getting home bonds accepted in the private sector rental market, a Member asked for an update on this scheme. The Head of Strategic Housing advised that persuading some private sector landlords to accept Home Bonds could be challenging in spite of work with the Landlords Forum and the scheme was not suitable for everyone. The scheme was being revised with a view to the Council taking on more of a match maker role.


·         Kingsley House


A Member referred to reports of staff at Kingsley House providing a poor service to some users. The Head of Strategic Housing commented it was recognised that vulnerable people’s interaction with housing staff could sometimes become confrontational. The team at Kinsgley House had now been split and a preventative team had been established which assessed an individual’s circumstances and helped them find accommodation.


·         DCLG funding bids


In response to a comment that the failure of the recent bids had been frustrating, Members were advised that the Council had asked for feedback from the bidding process.


·         Homelessness Forum


A Member noted the involvement of the Homelessness Forum in the development of the Homelessness Charter and commented that the Forum was seen by some as not being very transparent. The Head of Strategic Housing replied that the aim of the Charter was to set out the responsibilities of the various partners and their roles in tackling homelessness problems. The Forum was well established and comprised statutory and voluntary agencies. Relationships with volunteers could be complex and though they were well meaning there was the potential for their approach to exacerbate problems.


·         Accommodation for 18-35 year olds


Referring to the aim of delivering 10 rooms in shared housing for 18-35 year olds, a Member asked if the 10 rooms were in one building or spread across Medway. The Head of Strategic Housing advised the plan was to turn larger properties into shared accommodation.


·         Out of Borough placements


A Member commented on a big increase in people living in Chatham who had been placed there by other councils (mainly London Boroughs). They would often have complex problems and he asked what would happen if the council which placed a family no longer had a duty of care for them. The Head of Strategic Housing commented that the Council could not stop these placements but would raise concerns with a Council which placed people in sub standard accommodation or were paying above market rates for accommodation. There was a requirement to notify the host council in the case of housing placements but this did not apply for social services placements.


·         Supply of landlords


Noting that a significant proportion of rental properties in Medway were let to London commuters, a Member asked what would happen if there were not enough private landlords prepared to house homeless people. The Head of Strategic Housing commented that the priority was to ensure the current arrangements were working properly. If necessary the Council would need to house people out of borough but that would be a last resort.




The Committee agreed to note the draft Homelessness Prevention Strategy and ask Cabinet to consider its comments on the Strategy.

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