This report introduces the Housing Strategy 2018-22, which replaces the 2015-18 Housing Strategy approved by Cabinet in 2014 which sets out Medway’s strategic approach for housing services and details how the Council will enable the delivery of these services.
Members considered a report regarding the Housing Strategy 2018-22, which would replace the 2015-18 Housing Strategy approved by Cabinet in 2014. The Housing Strategy set out Medway’s strategic approach for housing services and detailed how the Council would enable the delivery of these services.
In considering the draft Strategy the following points and queries were made:
· Given the changing housing market and the increasing need for affordable housing, a Member expressed concern that the targets in the revised Strategy had not changed. The target to build 204 units per year was not ambitious enough. The Council’s aim that 25% of homes on large developments should be affordable was too low and often not met. Developers should be held to account and be compelled to publish their viability statements, as should Medway Development Company (MDC). Officers advised that the 25% target was a planning policy issue and dependent on the performance of the sector as a whole. Officers were confident the target of building 204 units per year would be met. The suggestion about viability statements would be discussed with the Head of Planning but for MDC it would be a matter for the Board.
· There should be more emphasis in the Strategy on MDC’s plans to build housing, as the Council should be leading by example. In response the Head of Strategic Housing considered the Strategy captured the key objective of MDC to deliver 600 homes.
· The Strategy should reference the recent decision to lift the HRA borrowing cap.
· The robustness of the Landlord and Tenant Accreditation Schemes was queried. Officers advised the numbers of people who were part of these schemes was not known but feedback had been very positive.
· The steady rise in private sector rents was a factor in causing homelessness as people often struggled to make rent payments. The Council should write to the Government asking for the private rented sector to be urgently reviewed.
· Regarding a query how much social housing would be delivered, officers advised that as this term covered a variety of types of affordable housing the Strategy would be amended to include details of the number of social rented units.
· Given the over representation amongst the homeless of armed forces veterans, the Strategy should refer to the Armed Forces Covenant.
· HMOs were an increasing source of problems in parts of Medway and the Strategy should include reference to that. The Head of Strategic Housing accepted HMOs were an increasing challenge. The Strategy would address what actions the Council could take and how to report concerns. It was confirmed HMOs could be licensed retrospectively but the sector was diverse and not everyone was prepared to cooperate with the Council.
· The figure of 1% of people living rent free was felt to be low. Officers explained this figure was derived from census data and it was accepted there would be young people living at home who were struggling to access accommodation.
· Out of area placements were a significant problem and this was affecting parts of Medway. As there was not a requirement for other Councils to notify Medway in all cases, it was suggested the Government be lobbied to change the rules so there was a duty on councils to notify host authorities in all cases of out of area placements. The Head of Strategic Housing commented this was a complex area and the issue raised had been discussed with the Government.
· The current focus for MDC was finding sites in urban areas but the company should also look at opportunities when sites became available in rural areas. The Chief Legal Officer acknowledged the present focus was on urban sites but if rural sites came forward then options would be kept open.
· Where MDC came forward with a development and wanted to locate the affordable housing it was required to provide on a different site then, in those circumstances, it should provide additional affordable housing. Officers advised that this would have to be dealt with on a case by case basis. A Member asked that this issue be raised with the Chairman of the Planning Committee and the Opposition Spokesperson.
· In response to a query whether there was sufficient capacity across the Council to deliver the Strategy, officers were confident the resources were available to deliver the strategy.
· There was insufficient reference to the importance of infrastructure. The Head of Strategic Housing recognised the importance of infrastructure, which was reflected in the Strategy, but did not consider there was a need to include more details as this issue was dealt with more fully in other Council plans.
Members agreed to note the draft Housing Strategy 2018-2022 and forward the following recommendations to Cabinet:
a) that the Government be requested to consider changing the rules on out of area placements to require Councils to notify host authorities in all cases of out of area placements.
b) that the Strategy should include reference to the Armed Forces Covenant and also the lifting of the HRA borrowing cap, and;
c) that the Housing Minister be requested to review the private rental sector market including the possibility of tightening the regulations governing this sector, given its impact on the overall housing market.