- 20 Oct 2020
Attendees and apologies
- Katey Tabner, COSLA (Chair)
- Iona Macphail, Argyll & Bute Council
- David Goldie, Highland Council
- Katrina Reid, PHS
- Ann Marie Carr, West Lothian Council
- Janet Stitt, Inverclyde Council
- Phil Daws, East Renfrewshire Council
- Catriona MacKean, SG
- Caroline Dicks, SG
- Angela O’Brien, SG
- Margaret Irving, SG (Secretariat)
- Stephen Clark, Stirling Council
- Tony Cain, ALACHO
- Michael Cameron, SHR
- Marion Gibbs, SG
- David Simpson, Dundee City Council
- John Mills, ALACHO
- Peter Barry, SOLACE
- Naeem Bhatti, SG
- Ashley Campbell, CIH
- Anil Gupta, COSLA
- Eloise Nutbrown, COSLA
Items and actions
1. Welcome to new members and update to previous minutes
Katey welcomed new members and everyone introduced themselves. She explained the purpose of the group and how this group links to the other housing resilience groups.
Coronavirus Scotland Act (2020) LG Position on Evictions
Expecting announcement in Parliament today from SG. The other resilience groups are working on a joint submission. SFHA have drafted a letter to SG and asking that antisocial behaviour be excluded from the extension but to include information about tenant’s benefits and include clear national messaging. COSLA Community will work with SFHA to develop this. Support for no one being evicted into homelessness, consider arrears management and mechanisms to support people maintain tenancy.
The group were asked if the emergency legislation provisions in relation to antisocial behaviour evictions were an issue. Comments were as follows:
- There should be an option to evict on the basis to ASB. They are rare but have a big impact on the surrounding tenants. There are more ASB cases arising and cause a lot of concern for communities and it would be helpful to move those cases forward.
- Evictions of ASB are still possible and asked if a 3 month period is still suitable or should there be a push for moving back to the original 28 days.
- SG confirmed that the current notice period is 3 months and the case cannot be progressed or taken to court for 3 months. The current emergency provisions allow for 2 month extension on top of the 28 days which equates to 3 months.
- Although the numbers of ASB cases may be small the impact on neighbours of a tenant who knows that they cannot be evicted could be huge.
- Usually it is childless households that are the cause of any ASB eviction orders. Where there are children involved councils would provide an alternative housing option particularly if the relationship with neighbours has broken down.
- Also worth bearing in mind that the burden of proof in cases of ASB is quite high, and decisions on eviction are subject to a test of reasonableness by the courts.
- SG looking ensuring tenancy sustainment wherever possible. DHP and SWF have been increased in recent months. PRS feedback is that not many are aware of what is available. SWF can’t be used to pay rent and DHP is only available if you are in receipt of benefits already.
- There are some long term implication in relation to DHP - this is already being used to mitigate bedroom tax and Universal credit issues - is there a risk of a higher proportion of families being supported via discretionary payments rather than through mainstream income support measures.
- Useful to have views of what would be most useful to support tenants and communities.
- Uptake of DHP has not increased as much as SWF which may be due to more complex administrative processes and could this issue be added to the letter to Ministers.
Social Renewal Advisory Board – Housing Policy Circle – Update
The group have been working at speed over the last few weeks and have provided a set of 9 priority recommendations for PfG which include ending rough sleeping, support for PRS, ending homelessness and affordable housing. We don’t know which will be going forward yet. Those that do not make the final list will be included in the work of the group in the second phase which covers the period up to November. The next phase will make more reference to lived experience. The group have been asked to feedback on a number of issued by 21 August with the next meeting taking place on 27 August.
SG Update on Housing Sector Recovery Plan
The recovery work is ongoing and fast moving which means the key topics and content is changing as progress is made and priorities changes. The plan is being reworked to take account of work done to date, comments from the three resilience groups and also things like evictions which have become a more important issue. The recovery plan will be discussed at the Ministerial chairs meeting tomorrow.
We should have a clearer plan at the next meeting showing progress made and highlighting issues arising.
Standing Item - Voids Processing
The chair noted that previous comments on voids processing indicated that it was at about 20 % of allocations from last year. The biggest issue is throughput. Members were asked for comments on local voids processing:
- Up to 60% of previous activity and increasing every month.
- Similar situation but main issue is throughput. Have 130 void properties but the engagement with applicants slows the process down. Getting properties ready for re-letting is fine but tenants and those in temporary accommodation are hesitant to move, feeling safer where they are. Averaging 12 -20 lettings a week in mainstream properties. As staff return the situation is improving but there is a homelessness backlog and huge numbers in temporary accommodation such as hotels.
- Housing assoc staff are now back and the number of lets is increasing. RSLs are letting to homeless, those bed blocking in hospital and those suffering from domestic abuse. Making offers on under occupied properties e.g. 3 bed is available in a remote area but need 2 bed.
- Issue of balancing freeing up supply while working to allocations policies. The 2 main RSLs have been helping with 100% lets to the homeless but they are getting pressure from their boards to increase lets to those seeking housing in the area. We have looked at under occupation in LA but not yet with RSLs.
- Office based staff are slowing things down because applicants can’t come into the office. Staff are reluctant to visit homes due to safe distancing etc. Getting there but not as quickly as we would have liked.
- Is digital exclusion and lack of hardware an issue? Even those who have capacity don’t want to do the housing process online and there are those who don’t have capacity. Aware that the housing offices need to be more digitally enabled.
- As a stock transfer authority we are working with HSCP and RSL in the area to get access to homes. HSCP have been working from home but some of the HA have been furloughed but access to flats has been working OK.
- The target in Phase 3 is for voids processing is to reach 75% of rates last year.
3. Action Log – review current work for fortnight ahead, identify actions and emerging areas
A 2 hour meeting with the Minister, COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Board and housing convenors is in calendar for Tuesday 18 August. The purpose is to meet ahead of Government response to HARSAG 2 recommendations.
PHS are also looking at HARSAG from health perspective.
Action - COSLA and PHS to discuss offline.
New members were told that there had been a need to join up data about vulnerable groups and how that info was being shared. PHS updated to say that conversations are continuing. There is a further meeting next Monday and will update the group following that. The information will help inform PHS strategy as well.
Covered earlier in the agenda
ALACHO sent out a questionnaire. The general tone tended to be that LAs were working through the backlog but that there were no major concerns.
Fair rents bill
The committee considered and decided not to take this bill forward. Government is keen to look at this so cross party discussions are continuing.
Update action log
Unsuitable Accommodation Orders
Moving towards deadline of having guidance signed off on 16 September and go to Community Wellbeing Board on 18 September so in place for deadline on 30 September. There have been a lot of responses from third sector organisations. Important to embed equality throughout this as well as making sure tenant choice is incorporated.
A proposal was sent to the Minister to extend from 30 September from 3 to 6 months. Impact of COVID on councils in terms of finding accommodation and furloughed staff in HA impacting on stock transfer LAs.
SG analytical officials are looking at how the Ministerial letter has been interpreted and a letter is going out shortly to clarify this. The Order does not begin on 1 October but came in on 5 May.
Group expressed concerns about the publicity which is about a target of October but recording breeches in advance of this. Agreed it was very confusing as the process had been so fast. Unfortunate that there had not been time for consultation with the councils which would have allowed for testing. Recognition that there are areas that need work but agreed that we can’t legislate through guidance. There are a few councils who are not going to meet this deadline. Have to be careful to safeguard councils.
Action – members asked to send in evidence if they were not going to meet the October deadline so that this can be shared with the Housing Minister.
Early Prisoner Release – No further update
Area Based Energy Schemes / Fuel Poverty - SG will provide an update on Grenfell and cladding at the next meeting.
Private Rented Sector – Looking at use of DHP for PRS tenants. Guidance for landlords will follow this u
Test and Protect
Members noted that there were no cases they were aware of. One council noted there were more issues around wild camping and were meeting to resolve this issue. Others noted that they had a tourism task force to deal with things like ferry sailings and maintaining distance if they were unable to remain in their car for the crossing.
LAs confirmed they had stock on standby if needed but there is no temporary accommodation on some of the islands which is an added problem if they cannot get on boats to get off the island so may have to source additional accommodation.
PHS noted that there is a working group looking at the provision of accommodation in relation to test and protect but were not sure what consideration has been given to tourism.
It was accepted that tourists would pay for their own accommodation if isolating and speak to council if this is not possible.
Action PHS to investigate tourist test and protect provisions.
Destitute migrants with no recourse to public funds
Group are looking at recommendations of the consortium. COSLA to update at next meeting.
4. AOB – General Updates/Emerging Issues
No other business.
The chair thanked everyone, in particular all new members, for their input.