PROGRESS ON DELIVERING DENBIGHSHIRE'S HOUSING STRATEGY
To consider a report (copy attached) on the progress made to date in delivering the key outcomes and actions identified in Denbighshire’s Housing Strategy.
11.30 a.m. – 12.15 p.m.
The Lead Member for Modernising and Housing, Councillor Barbara Smith, introduced the report (previously circulated) to update Scrutiny Committee on the progress made to date in delivering the key outcomes and actions identified in Denbighshire’s Housing Strategy.
In her introduction the Lead Member emphasised that the Strategy, approved by the County Council on 1 December 2015, brought various housing functions together in one action plan. As various Council services were responsible for different housing functions the delivery of housing objectives had been somewhat disparate until they had been brought together under one Strategy. During the Strategy’s development, and since its adoption, all Council services had bought into the Strategy’s delivery and it was hoped that the new Council, post May’s local authority elections, would be as enthusiastic as the current Council to see the Strategy delivered and evolve to meet future needs.
Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member and officers advised that:
· Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) must be zoned with Welsh Government (WG) to be able to access grant funding for housing projects (including Social Housing Grant). The Council and Cartrefi Conwy had worked closely together to develop a business case which had been approved by WG in May 2016. This enabled Cartrefi Conwy to access funding and bring forward projects in Denbighshire;
· A number of services worked in close partnership with other public sector organisations i.e. Health and Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that homeless accommodation and other vulnerable residents’ homes provided a safe and healthy environment for people to live. Partnership working included working with Public Protection officers for joint inspections of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO);
· The draft Empty Homes Delivery Plan and associated action plan had recently been discussed at the Housing Strategy Monitoring Group and would be approved via the Delegated Decision process in the near future. Responsibility for Empty Homes lay within the Planning and Public Protection Service and formed part of another post. The number of identified empty homes in the county remained around the 800 homes figure despite efforts to bring homes back into use, with around 100 brought back into use each year. Nevertheless these houses would not be the same 800 houses as would have been the case a number of years ago. However, as one home was filled another one was likely to become empty. It was emphasised that bringing long-term empty homes back into occupancy could be a prolonged and complex process. Periodic publicity campaigns were run to highlight the Council’s objective in relation to empty homes with a view to drawing the public’s attention to the help that was available to them if they had an empty home on their hands. Previously the Council was compelled to report upon a national Strategic Indicator, relating to the number of empty homes within the county brought back into use through direct action by the Council – on which the Council was regularly the second or third best performing authority in Wales ;
· Local Social Housing Plans were currently in the process of being developed due to the rising demand for social housing. Nevertheless, the Council was of the opinion that building brand new ‘council houses’ was not the only solution to meet this growing demand. A range of options would be contained within the action plans, including buying back former council housing sold under the ‘right to buy’ scheme in the past, the development of shared ownership properties, extra care accommodation for older people, and the release of current ‘sheltered housing’ complexes which were built before current accessibility standards for people without specific mobility needs had been introduced. Over 50 affordable units had been provided during 2015/16 and during the term of the current Council it was envisaged that approximately 250 units would have been developed (208 had already been provided up until the end of the 2015/16 financial year);
· there was a shortage of 1 and 2 bedroomed properties across the county ;
· When the Council ‘bought itself out’ of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) scheme it released funds to undertake housing related projects. A 30 year plan had been compiled for the former HRA monies;
· The Council expected to be notified by the WG by the end of May if its application to suspend the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme in Denbighshire had been successful;
· As the Council did not have a significant ‘land bank’ at its disposal it had to identify potential sites, including those within its ownerships which had been used for other purposes in the past, as sites for potential housing developments. Plans were currently underway in the Rhyl area on potential sites which officers hoped could begin to be developed for affordable housing during the autumn of 2017 with a view to the first homes being available in late spring 2018;
· Another option which had come to light recently was the potential to maximise the benefits of housing development planning applications, by keeping the affordable housing provision element in the development when approving the applications and then maximising the provision through the Council offering to buy a specified number of houses (over and above the affordable housing element required by the planning permission) on the development from the developer once they were built. Officers were currently working to identify development sites across the county where this approach could potentially be applied; and
· Work could be undertaken as part of the Local Development Plan (LDP) to explore potential options, particularly in rural areas, to widen access to affordable housing and cater for people’s future needs.
Prior to the conclusion of the discussion the Committee agreed that it would be useful for all County Councillors, post the local authority elections, to be briefed on the Strategy, its objectives and proposed development over time. The Committee was also of the view that the Local Housing Strategy’s Action Plan should be submitted to the Scrutiny Chairs and Vice-Chairs Group (SCVCG) on a regular basis for it to prioritise which actions contained within it merited closer examination. It was:
RESOLVED that subject to the above observations:
(i) To receive the report and commend the progress achieved to date in delivering the Local Housing Strategy action plan;
(ii) That a briefing be held for all county councillors, as part of the forthcoming Member Development Programme, on the objectives of the Local Housing Strategy, its delivery programme and proposed future development; and
(iii) That the Scrutiny Chairs and Vice-Chairs Group (SCVCG) be requested to periodically monitor the delivery of the Strategy’s action plan with a view to identifying areas for closer examination and scrutiny
- Housing StrategyReport 170317, item 7. PDF 105 KB
- Housing StrategyReport - App 1 170317, item 7. PDF 405 KB