To receive and consider the development plans for the Croydon Housing and Homelessness Strategy.
During the presentations, the following points were noted:
· There were specific drivers for a new Housing Strategy including population growth coupled with need, climate emergency and sustainability as well as affordability concerns.
· Priorities would be focused on increase of supply, affordable homes, and improvements to current stock as well as better access to homes whilst promoting independence.
· The current Administration and the Council were united in the decision that understanding need and a clear direction of travel was required which culminated in the production of the Strategy. The focus was on intervention with residents at the heart of responses, provision of services and support.
· Hidden homelessness remained a large issue, with many families experiencing in work poverty. Similarly street homelessness remained a priority which was more about tackling the range of contributing factors, all of which required outreach and holistic support.
· Several initiatives had been launched with partners and community services, who were all valued for their contribution as it was clear that the housing crisis could only be ended through working in partnership
Following the presentation the Sub-Committee was given the opportunity to ask questions on the content of the reports and the information provided during the presentations.
Officers were commended on the detail and level of work that had been undertaken in the development of the Strategy
In response to a question on how to define affordable housing, the Cabinet Member said that this term in itself was confusing as homes could be described as affordable but the level of difference in meaning would vary for different people. It was important to strike a balance and to be clear on what it actually meant for Croydon residents as the Government had taken the position that it should be 80% of market rent, but the reality was that in some areas with lower rents this was affordable and in others not.
A question was raised on whether there was an interconnection between planning applications, housing need in the borough and if there was a scope to steer developers towards submitting applications for homes that were more favourable. Officers responded that the planning department worked with developers and encourage them to provide as much affordable homes as possible from proposed schemes. They ensured environmental and space standards were taken into consideration and met. Officers also worked with Housing Associations to help meet housing need through their offers of social rented properties and shared ownership as part of proposed schemes.
A Member queried the expansion of the seaside homes scheme to facilitate people that wanted to move out of the borough. It was asked whether there was any figures available on the uptake of these schemes as well as any other schemes that the Council may have to assist people that wanted to move out of the borough. Officers agreed to circulate related information after the meeting.
A Member highlighted that there had been a commendation by the Ministry of Housing for Croydon and its Gateway team on its innovation and good practice to reduce homelessness.
It was emphasised that more assistance was needed for single people, young people and key workers. Officers acknowledged this and advised that exploring options to support these residents remained a priority for the Council. They were exploring different schemes for key workers in order to attract good quality staff to the borough.
In response to questions on social letting agencies and what was being done to support families on housing benefit. Officers said that the key was ensuring that tenancies were sustainable and that the Council continued to work with housing associations to ensure that they offered support to their residents to enable them to sustain their tenancies. The Council also ran the Croydon Lettings Project which was developed to assist residents that struggled to access rental properties on the open housing market by helping residents find and keep homes in the private rental sectors and working with landlords to meet their needs by matching them with reliable tenants on a free service basis. The scheme continued to be successful after its launch over a year ago.
It was further questioned what was being done to support Croydon’s Homeless population. Officers explained that they were working in partnership with various outreach services on engagement. Various services including mental health, drug and alcohol outreach services had been commissioned as well as other community voluntary services working together. Churches in the community has come together to run emergency floating shelter services, especially during evenings of severe low temperature.
In response to a question on the impact of Right to Buy legislation on the Housing Strategy, officers said that social housing remained a priority as social homes are being lost at a rate at which they could not be replaced. Members were informed that 70% of the income from Right to Buy was paid to central government with councils only keeping 30% so the money raised was not reinvested in replenishing lost stock. The Council’s housing stock had depleted from over 25,000 to 13,000 as a result of the Right to Buy scheme.
A Member asked how Croydon’s Strategy compared to other Authorities that may not have a Gateway service. Officers confirmed that Croydon was trailblazing with the early intervention and prevention work it was doing. Partnerships were strengthened and the community, both young and older were working collectively on preventative methods to tacking the housing and homelessness crisis.
At the conclusion of this item the Chair thanked the Cabinet Member and officers for their attendance at the meeting and their engagement with the Committee and questions.
Arising from the discussion of this item, the Sub-Committee would like to request the following information be provided:-
1. Information on the seaside scheme including data on the levels of take up.
The Sub-Committee reached the following Conclusions:
· The level of detail that had gone into developing the Strategy was commendable
· The Strategy highlighted the importance of integrated working between the Council and its partners as well as the community to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis.
· In addressing issues of homelessness it was important to understand the wider influencing factors that contributed to homelessness with the appropriate services identified and put in place as preventative measures.
· Hidden homelessness remained a big issues and a cause for concern, the effects of which were felt by the whole family including children in terms of education and welfare.
· The provision of holistic support and outreach services through joint working with multidisciplinary agencies as well as the voluntary sector was making a difference to the lives of residents.