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Disclosures of Interest & Whipping Declarations
In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, Councillors of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to declare interests where appropriate.
No disclosures of interests were made.
To approve as a correct report the minutes of the Housing Associations Scrutiny Panel held on 13 September 2023.
The minutes of the meeting of the Housing Associations Scrutiny Panel held on 13 September 2023 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Evidence Gathering Interviews & Witness Sessions
The Panel has invited witnesses to attend the meeting to help inform its investigation.
The Head of Crawley Homes, NASB Manager, Housing Needs Manager and Performance, Policy and Project Officer have been invited to assist the Panel by providing an update from the council’s perspective and current position whilst assisting the Panel to understand the challenges faced along with the provision of support currently being provided.
Councillor Irvine has also been invited as the Cabinet Member for Housing.
Whilst the individuals named above identifies those witnesses anticipated to speak at the meeting, this may change subject to availability and, at the discretion of the Chair. Further witnesses may be called in addition or instead of those listed above should they be unavailable.
The Housing Needs Manager and Performance, Policy and Project Officer (CBC) provided the Panel with an update since the previous report SHAP/69 and further information with regards to Registered Providers (RPs) operating in Crawley (as set out in Appendix A).
Panel Members raised a number of queries. The issues raised and the key responses included:
· Acknowledgement that the responsibility for governing and regulating RPs lay entirely with the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH). The council expected RPs to be meeting those standards and focused on the property, type of tenancy and then carried out affordability checks prior to accommodation. An information sharing protcol between the Council and RPs was already in place, but work was planned in the next 6 months to update this.
· Confirmation sought and obtained on any contractual agreement between RPs and the council with regards to standards. It was confirmed that nomination agreements existed which detailed the nomination arrangements for the allocation of social and affordable rental housing ensuring that the Council’s statutory duties were met by the housing providers operating within the borough. Service standards and operational processes for social housing providers must conform with their individual regulatory and governance requirements and were thus set at a level which met requirements to protect both tenants and housing stock and which reflected the expectations of their respective tenants.
· Noted that housing played an important role when dealing with financial, health issues and its associated factors and support was offered between various agencies including social care, health and housing authorities.
· Recognition that of the affordable housing built in Crawley over the last 3 years, it was estimated 225 homes were built by registered providers and that over the next two years registered providers were set to deliver approximately 57% of the new build social housing in Crawley, equating to over 270 homes. The nomination rights to registered providers properties secured by the council would play a significant role in helping to meet the demand for affordable and social housing locally and the Panel felt it would be beneficial to receive an update report on how enabling opportunities come forward and development partners were selected.
· Confirmation provided that through nomination agreements with registered provider partners, the council had secured nomination rights to 100% of newly built social housing in Crawley and up to 75% of social housing once it became available for re-occupation with 25% difference potentially equating to registered providers internal transfers.
· Acknowledgement that the majority of applicants placed less importance on the landlord, or on the amount of rent and more on the area in which they wanted to live.
· Noted that of the disrepair complaints received in 2022 to the Private Sector Housing regarding properties owned by housing associates, none had escalated to enforcement action.
· Clarity sought and obtained on the nomination rights secured for schemes outside the town’s boundaries (Kilnwood Vale and Pease Pottage). It was noted that new developments and affordable rent was a national challenge and that given the increasing demand for ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
To agree any recommendations from this meeting to be included into draft report.
Proposed and potential recommendations to be picked up for future discussion included:
· Establish regular meetings at a strategic level of relevant partners (and local where appropriate eg RSL, ASB Team, PCSO, Ward Cllrs) to inform/review issues, trends and share best practice with particular reference to ASB issues.
· Reporting process for RPs to provide local data for Crawley following introduction of new consumer standards and tenant satisfaction measures.
General Update and Actions for Next Meeting
To receive any relevant updates/information from officers and Panel Members, including additional information required to advance the forthcoming meetings. To include:
a) Confirm witness sessions established for remaining meetings and update on any corespondence.
b) Confirm that Panel Members identify a clear set of questions to ask representatives attending witness sessions.
The Head of Crawley Homes updated the Panel that much work would be required as a result of the new legislation and consumer standards that were to come into effect in 2024. The revised standards would apply to all RPs and would then result in performance standards, benchmarking and ultimately league tables. Crawley Homes regularly engaged with tenants and it was anticipating receiving full survey results mid-2024.
It was thought it may be beneficial for the Panel to think and question how the RPs were preparing for the new standards, as well as a reporting process for local data provision.
There was discussion over the potential logistics for the February meeting and whether invited RPs should attend the same meeting or be issued ‘time slots’ due to any “commercial sensitive” discussions such as individual processes and procedures that may be should not be shared. It was acknowledged the Panel meetings were public, however any sensitive information could result in moving the meeting into exempt session.
Whilst the draft invite was being compiled by officers to be issued to selected RPs, it was recognised that given the work involved in preparing for the new standards, the response rate for requested attendance in February may be low.
1. That a briefing/update report be prepared on how enabling opportunities come forward and development partners are selected.
2. That information is sought from Sussex Police requesting any information they would wish RPs could address in relation to ASB to assist Sussex Police.