To approve and adopt Rotherham’s Housing Strategy 2016-19.
Further to Minute No. 18 of the meeting of the Cabinet/Commissioners’ Decision Making Meeting held on 15th February, 2016, consideration was given to the report detailed the extensive consultation on the Housing Strategy which had taken place with staff, partners, residents and other stakeholders with over 2,000 responses. Members have been engaged in the review and refresh of the Housing Strategy with a Members Seminar held on 4th February 2015.
The Strategy had now been refreshed and the new draft, which covered the period between January, 2016 and December, 2018, was based on a sound evidence base and reflected the views of people living and working in Rotherham under five themes:-
· Increasing the number of homes – housing growth.
· Ensuring affordable rented/social housing is available for those who cannot afford or do not want to buy a home.
· Improving quality in the private rented sector, the fastest growing tenure in Rotherham.
· Increasing opportunities for first time buyers and other households seeking affordable home ownership.
· Ensuring a wide range of specialist housing that is suitable for older people and other specific groups.
The draft Housing Strategy provided residents with a clear and accessible document setting out how the Council was responding to the various housing challenges and what it intended to do. It also pulled together in a single document, the key housing aims and objectives from other more detailed plans.
The Strategy had been written at a time that could herald the most significant changes for housing in a generation. The Housing and Planning Bill was progressing through the parliamentary system and if passed would bring enormous changes to planning, house building and social housing systems. Amidst the undoubted opportunities elements of the Bill provide, there were also very real challenges ahead, particularly for social housing system, which would make it increasingly difficult for people on modest incomes to afford suitable rented accommodation.
The Council would have to operate with a much lower level of resources than in previous years due to Government public spending cuts, and the social rent reduction which further reduced the Housing Revenue Account capacity to deliver housing growth and other key services. This would be compounded by the Enforced Sale levy which Government intended to impose on local authorities to pay for housing association Right to Buy discounts. The Council must, therefore, work in innovative and entrepreneurial ways with partners to deliver on the housing growth ambitions.
Councillor Roche, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, endorsed the report and in doing so highlighted the additional pressures as a result of an ageing population, which could be alleviated with good quality housing options.
Councillor Cowles made reference to the challenges facing Eastwood, being tough on anti-social behaviour and asked how many fines had actually been issued.
Councillor Reeder sought clarification on the number of new homes delivered during the years 2014/15 and 2015/16.
Councillor Currie welcomed this report and supported the hard work that had gone into its production.
Councillor C. Vines made reference to the vision of achieving high quality homes for people to live in by 2043 and asked what kind of properties were likely to be built. He further expressed his concern at Council properties being affected by damp and mould.
In addition, he referred to the increasing numbers of homes being built each year and pointed out Rotherham was short of decent homes for people to live in.
Councillor Whelbourn asked for a regular monitoring process and suggested this be considered by the relevant scrutiny commission on a regular basis.
Councillor John Turner was unable to support the report on the grounds that he considered Rotherham to have reached its critical mass and described problems with traffic congestion in various areas.
Councillor Pitchley drew attention to the four main priorities which the Housing Strategy was helping to address and asked was this not what everyone wanted for the people of Rotherham.
Councillor Lelliott referred to the problems with condensation in some properties and suggested an invitation be extended to Councillor Wallis to see how the issues being referred to could be resolved.
Councillor Jepson was in attendance at the information sharing seminar on this subject and suggested that this Strategy and the Local Plan be considered together rather than individually.
Councillor M. Vines referred to the suggested positive effect with Selective Licensing in some areas and sought clarification on the prosecution rates of those landlords in conflict.
In addressing the comments raised Councillor Wallis explained that a court date for prosecutions had been confirmed for later this month with three hearings listed and fourteen pending. A more detailed response to the concerns of Councillor M. Vines would be provided in writing.
With regards to the queries from Councillors Jepson and Whelbourn it was pointed out that this Strategy should follow the same scrutiny process.
Councillor Wallis welcomed an invitation by Councillor C. Vines to visit the houses he raised of concern, but pointed out that 99% of housing stock met the decent homes standard.
With regards to the types of homes likely to be built, this would be a range of housing that met the needs of the people in the borough with smaller affordable properties that were attractive for potential residents.
In terms of measuring housing growth, the figures relating to the number of new homes delivered during the year were actuals for 2014/15 and projected additional numbers for 2015/16.
In addressing the concerns raised by Councillor Cowles, Councillor Wallis explained how the Selective Licensing Scheme was going a long way to addressing some of the concerns in Eastwood and was more than prepared to meet the difficulties in Eastwood.
Resolved: That the Housing Strategy 2016-19 be approved and adopted.
Mover:- Councillor Wallis Seconder:- Councillor Roche