Housing Strategy and Delivery Plan (EX3833)
Purpose: To seek approval for the Housing Strategy and Delivery Plan 2020 - 2036.
Resolved that the Housing Strategy 2020 – 2036 and the Delivery Plan be approved.
This decision is eligible to be ‘called-in’. However, if the decision has not been ‘called-in’ by 5.00pm on 1 April 2021, then it will be implemented.
The Executive considered a report (Agenda Item 7) which sought approval of the Housing Strategy and Delivery Plan 2020-2036.
Councillor Hilary Cole introduced the report and explained that this document would replace the previous Housing Strategy which was adopted in 2010 and expired in 2015.
A six week consultation period was held in the Autumn of 2020 to inform the Strategy. It would be a high level strategic document which linked to other key strategies and plans. The Strategy set out the vision and key priorities for housing in the District through to 2036. Councillor Cole took the opportunity to highlight two key priorities. For all residents to have access to a home that met their needs and to reduce homelessness.
The Strategy made reference to impacts from Covid-19 and a review mechanism would be in place if it was necessary to respond to emerging needs relating to Covid. However, the pandemic was clearly still ongoing and impacts would continue to be assessed.
Councillor Cole explained that plans were in place to respond, with partner organisations, to live impacts including capacity of mental health services, accommodation solutions for young people and rough sleepers, impacts on the economy, and the sustainability of registered social landlords. The Housing Team would lobby for additional funds as they became available and there had been some recent successes in this respect.
Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter was pleased to second the report. He was particularly pleased to note the strong focus on the environmental impact of housing and the desire to raise standards. It was also the case that the District was in a period of demographic change with an older population and smaller households and this Strategy provided a good high level response to that.
Councillor Tony Vickers had commented extensively at the drafting stage and he was pleased to note that some of his points had been accepted into the Strategy. He was however concerned at the resource level to implement the action plan. He was aware that additional external funds had been secured as well as internal funding, but this was an area of risk that needed to be monitored.
Returning to demographic change, this could result in the under occupation of larger homes which was a nationwide issue. Councillor Tony Vickers felt that action in this area would greatly assist with housing issues, and this was referenced in the action plan, but he queried what could be done when acknowledging this would be a difficult area to progress.
Councillor Cole agreed this was a very difficult area to take action on and people could only be encouraged to downsize. Separately, she referred to a good scheme in place which aimed to bring empty homes back into use.
Councillor Tony Vickers noted the Public Protection role highlighted in the action plan and questioned the liaison between Public Protection and Housing. Councillor Cole advised that Public Protection had always held the statutory duty to inspect homes of multiple occupancy. Both services were within her Portfolio and she was aware that they worked very closely together.
Councillor Carolyne Culver highlighted the need to build smaller (one and two bedroom) homes. This would aid the ability for people to downsize if they wished to and offer more affordable homes. Councillor Cole agreed there was this need and efforts were made to encourage developers to build out smaller dwellings. However, developers, in following market forces, saw a greater need for larger properties.
Councillor Culver was concerned at the rise in the number of people on the Common Housing Register (CHR) and queried what action would be taken to build more social housing in West Berkshire. Councillor Cole explained that the CHR had recently been updated and this would result in an adjustment to the numbers referred to.
In terms of affordability, Councillor Cole explained that the Council was looking at the feasibility of developing a housing company. This would give the Council a greater ability for developing affordable homes. However, she made the point that the Council’s housing stock had been with Sovereign Housing since 1998.
Finally, Councillor Culver noted that a report was due, in March 2022, relating to affordable housing for younger people and queried the timing of bringing forward the Housing Strategy when this report was due in a year’s time. Councillor Cole was aware of the March 2022 report, but the work to meet the demand for housing for younger people was ongoing.
Councillor Lee Dillon made reference to private landlords. He noted that the Council would seek to bring private housing up to standard where required and he questioned whether the Council would form a good landlords register or rogue landlords register to help advise residents.
Councillor Cole explained that the Private Landlords Forum had recently been reinstated and funding had been secured to conduct a survey on housing conditions in the private rented sector. Councillor Dillon queried if a register would be formed if particular concerns were highlighted from this survey. Councillor Cole felt that this was a potential option to progress which she would discuss further with Housing Officers.
In terms of the potential register, Councillor Jeff Brooks pointed out that many landlords operated via letting agencies and these agencies should also be included on the register.
Councillor Adrian Abbs referred to the retirement sector. Retirement homes fell in value which offered less incentive for people to downsize to them. He queried what action could be taken in this area. He was particularly concerned at the charges set by those organisations who serviced such homes. Councillor Cole did not disagree with these points but she questioned the powers available to local authorities. This was an area on which to lobby Members of Parliament.
RESOLVED that the Housing Strategy and Delivery Plan 2020-2036 be approved.
Other options considered: The option not to review and develop a new draft Housing Strategy was dismissed due to changes nationally and locally, and due to changes in legislation.
- 7.EX3833Housing Strategy report for Executive, item 97. PDF 257 KB
- 7a. Housing Strategy March 2021, item 97. PDF 7 MB
- 7b. Summary of changes made to housing strategy, item 97. PDF 361 KB