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Joint Housing Resilience Chairs Group minutes: December 2020

Published: 23 Mar 2021
Date of meeting: 9 Dec 2020

Minutes of the Joint Housing Resilience Chairs Group meeting, held on 9 December 2020.

Published:
23 Mar 2021
Joint Housing Resilience Chairs Group minutes: December 2020

Attendees and apologies

Present

  • Kevin Stewart - Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning
  • Sally Thomas - SFHA
  • John Blackwood – SAL
  • Laura Cavan, COSLA
  • Debbie King, Shelter       
  • Catriona MacKean - SG
  • Yvonne Gavan – SG
  • Margaret Irving – SG

Apologies

  • Nina Ballantyne - CAB
  • Cllr Elena Whitham – COSLA

Items and actions

1. Welcome / Introductions / Apologies

The Minister welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2. Note of previous meeting / actions

The note of the previous meeting was agreed.

Sally asked the Minister for his thoughts on UK spending review.

He noted that our capital budget has been slashed by 5% at a time when other European countries are spending capital to stimulate activity. We will need to look at other aspects of spending review and will share analysis of the budget when we receive it.

Issuing a letter from the Minister and Councillor Whitham has not yet happened but Catriona will discuss with Laura tomorrow along with queries about DHP and More Homes.

The Minister suggested that the letter once agreed should go to trade unions to disseminate. He would like this to be finalised by the end of the week.

Action – Catriona to take this forward

Sally confirmed that there hadn’t been any negative feedback but it would be good to keep confidence going among tradespeople to go about their business.

On the construction side there was lot of correspondence prompting people to look at refreshed guidance so less of a problem. Trades themselves have everything organised. The Construction coronavirus group have been very good at disseminating information.

Catriona confirmed that DHP spending is above that of last year but more money has been made available this year. The team are monitoring bedroom tax and liaising with LA.

3. Updates from Resilience Groups

Local Authority Housing Resilience Group

The group discussed the following:

  • Delayed Discharge and Complex Care working groups
  • Adult social care – work done to get some examples to show how housing is working with social care
  • Scottish Prison Service and Community Justice Scotland attended and provided an update on the recovery of the Justice System.  COSLA have been working with LA housing services and prison service on the challenges ahead and met on 9 December to discuss further.
  • Support to sustain tenancies and DHP
  • Housing and social security group restarting
  • Rent arrears higher for local authorities than housing associations.
  • Anecdotal evidence showing that drug related deaths have increased. PHS doing some work on this.

Laura noted concern that the decision on banning evictions was taken without discussing with the sector.

Social Housing Resilience Group

Group discussed the following:

  • Movements on voids, allocations and making sure housing options hubs are in communication with local HA to ensure allocations getting through to Housing Options Scotland.
  • Group discussed the £100m winter support fund for families and children, with £7m to help people who are struggling to pay fuel bills. Post meeting discussion held with SFHA who will work with SG to support the delivery of support for fuel poor households.
  • The SFHA financial data collection summary from April to September was discussed, along with the Scottish Housing Regulator dashboard.  Overall, starting to become clear that the impact on rent arrears is not as bad as anticipated. Group were content with the suggestion that SHR suspend the collection of returns for month of December.
  • Tenants hardship loan fund – SG will provide and update at the next meeting.
  • Internal Market Bill which went to House of Lords who have agreed to some of the amendments. This is now back with House of Commons.  SFHA will publish briefing from Institute for Government and share with group.

Sally noted that it wold useful to have a conversation about that as the decision to ban evictions was taken without discussing with the sector.

PRS Resilience Group

The group discussed the following:

  • John noted this was his last meeting there was concern that the group would no longer have a PRS rep once he and Daryl McIntosh of Propertymark step down, however they both have close links with SG and will continue to feed into the work of the group. He also noted that he works closely CAS so can feed into group in advance of meetings.
  • The group has changed over time and has developed into PRS tenants resilience group.
  • Intention is to continue to meet fortnightly and will continue in new year and review.
  • ToR were reviewed and they will consider input from under represented equalities group.
  • Co-chair for the group has not been identified yet but Debbie King is sharing some of the workload at present.
  • Longer term Communication between landlords and tenants and how to communicate changes of info. Considered Landlord registration route. Many LA communicate with private landlords but not all do so.
  • The group welcomed the Ministerial letter. Will look at this and get back to you via officials.

Debbie noted some of the more immediate short term issues including:

  • Preventing homelessness and maximising income.
  • Looking at DHP and how they are being administered. Some LA use it to cover rent arrears but others don’t. Even with evictions being banned the arrears are still increasing.
  • Social Security stakeholder group being restarted.
  • Recognise gaps in help for those in hospitality, agriculture and students as not eligible for funding.
  • Repairs – feedback from housing advice is that tenants are reluctant to let people in. This is not a huge problem but is becoming more common.
  • Debbie welcomed the  ban on evictions over Christmas asking when the regulations will be laid and what future plans were for areas 3 and 4 in the new year.

The Minister noted:

  • With regard to regulations around the eviction ban, we had a voluntary agreement with SMASO but this was not being adhered by all so we moved to protect people quickly by drafting new regulations.
  • We are looking at Regs for levels 3 and 4 in future but there is a balance to be struck.  We can do certain things for public health reasons in the short term but have to take account of Article 8 of EHCR or it may result in court action by property owners.
  • Sally said it is always useful to have a brief heads up to sustain confidence of resilience groups.