Publication - Minutes

Local Authority Housing Resilience Group minutes: 28 July 2020

Published: 20 Oct 2020

Minutes of the 28 July meeting of the Local Authority Housing Resilience Group.

Published:
20 Oct 2020
Local Authority Housing Resilience Group minutes: 28 July 2020

Attendees and apologies

Participants

  • Katey Tabner, COSLA (Chair)
  • Marion Gibbs, SG
  • Douglas Whyte, Argyll & Bute Council
  • Tony Cain, ALACHO
  • Anil Gupta, COSLA
  • Naeem Bhatti, SG
  • John Mills, ALACHO
  • Ashley Campbell, CIH
  • Margaret Irving, SG (Secretariat)

Apologies

  • Eloise Nutbrown, COSLA
  • Michael Cameron, SHR
  • David Simpson, Dundee City Council
  • David Goldie, Highland Council
  • Peter Barry, SOLACE
  • Katrina Reid, PHS
  • Angela O’Brien, SG
  • Catriona MacKean, SG
  • Caroline Dicks, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome and update to previous minutes

No changes recorded to the minutes.

2. HARSAG II Discussion

Work will be taken forward under HSPC group.

Response to key recommendations

80-90% of social lettings to homeless households through the duration of the FM’s route map

  • Housing associations are already providing the majority of their lets. How would the percentage of lettings be enforced?
  • How is the recommendation being communicated to the HAs? Will depend if there is a common housing register or if it is through Section 5 protocol. However this assumes normal housing access is operating.
  • Need to kick start voids. The lack of empty properties is the main problem.  Boosting transfers will naturally reduce homeless numbers.
  • Those who have been homeless longest (prior to the pandemic) should be housed before those in temporary hotel accommodation.
  • Recognise the differences between housing providers, e.g. stock transfer areas, RSLs. There will be differences and tensions that need to be handled. Important to have effective leadership to encourage them to increase their lets to homeless. There will be exceptions and there should be no repercussions if they are not able to meet the target.
  • Recognition that there is a need to get homeless into permanent accommodation. However families in temporary accommodation will remain there if the only voids coming up are 1 bed properties.
  • Use HARSAG recommendations to send a signal to encourage people to make more directed efforts.
  • Minister has offered to speak to members of the COSLA Community Wellbeing board to discuss HARSAG recommendations and this is expected to take place in August.

Pre-lettings to homeless households to provide certainty of move on

  • Detailed guidance about how to manage the process already exist. Matching is about the local process and landlords allocate as soon as they can.
  • If there are pre-allocations it allows people to make plans, however dependent on having homes to let.  It is useful as a nudge to landlords to pre-offer so that furniture packages and other help can be put in place to make the process more efficient.
  • Working towards Housing First Model but if asking HAs to take homeless first this may be delayed. Two stage process – pre-lettings are part of this, allocations process in place but the recommendations don’t prevent Housing First from progressing.

Assertive access to the PRS including through rent deposit schemes and a PRS access service in every LA etc.

  • Assertive access is not about commandeering properties but if there are empty homes in PRS then we need robust arrangements to get them into circulation.
  • There are 21 LAs with EHO and a further 11 without. The convenor of the Community Wellbeing board is writing out to LA’s to highlight EHO roles.
  • There is some good work in the PRS sector in terms of options to get homeless out of temporary accommodation. There are already a number of projects running including rent guarantee scheme and a LHA project in Edinburgh.
  • Is the eventual withdrawal of the enhanced LHA rates a risk for the future? Enhanced LHA rates are still not at a level that works with the PRS sector in some areas.
  • Some private landlords have only one or two properties, how are they persuaded to get involved?  Many single landlords are selling up and LAs are buying these empty properties. This is really aimed at bigger landlords with 5 to 50 properties to buy into working with LA to have access schemes.
  • Some landlords are holding off renting out properties at the moment as they do not want to be part of the LA solution to reducing homelessness.
  • LA don’t have many powers apart from compulsory purchase to require LL to occupy EH.
  • PRS pre-action requirements are being considered by Scottish Government at the moment.

Weekly audit of who is in hotels and ensuring everyone has a personal housing plan in place, with pre-allocations as an expectation

  • This has been tested with Housing Options hubs. A weekly count would not be too difficult but personal plans are not so common.
  • For people in hotels there needs to be time to put in place a personal plan. Might be possible in smaller LA’s but not Edinburgh or Glasgow where the numbers are much greater.
  • Need to be aware of different terminology. Called casework management in some areas but can have a different meaning depending on where you are.
  • Could hotels be changed to temporary accommodation?
  • Spend some time following up “lost contacts” i.e. those known to services but no longer in contact.
  • Pre-allocations and personal plan have resourcing issues so need to get the balance right.

Ensure everyone housed in hotels moves on to settled accommodation

  • At the moment hotels have enabled people to be taken off the streets. Moves to settled accommodation are more difficult in Edinburgh and Glasgow because of the large numbers.

Ensuring victims of Domestic Abuse are supported into settled accommodation as a priority to free up refuge space – and understanding what local authorities are hearing about refuge space and whether/where there are particular concerns

  • Although there was nothing specific in HARSAG, this was covered under prioritising people in refuges.
  • Feedback from the hubs suggested there was not a huge pressure on refuge provision.
  • Promote good practice among social landlords to have policies in place for women requiring assistance.
  • Some women’s aid do shared occupancy so housing benefits are higher. There is a general shortage of women’s aid accommodation. Best is to keep family in family home rather than move to alternative accommodation.
  • Post Covid should look at refuge accommodation in terms of space and affordability.

Ensuring a specific offer to young people which meets their needs

  • There is no bespoke offer for young people. There is shared accommodation but there are issues around isolation, jobs and training. Shared accommodation should be good quality and rooms should all be an equal size. Would be useful to pick this up at the HSPC.
  • CIH looked at shared housing as one potential response to the UK government’s proposal to apply LHA to social housing. A summary of some of the challenges is set out in the report.
  • Most LAs do not have a young person’s accommodation strategy although most will have an older person’s strategy so there is some discrimination.

Developing and implementing night shelter route map, building on the work already done by the 3rd Sector Everyone Home Collective

  • This applies more to large cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • Operators stopped provision without an obvious plan in being in place. While some organisations will put something in place it is important that the night shelters are taken forward organisations with experience. Night shelters would also provide help for those with NRTPF.

​Clear guidance from SG to LAs and RSLs that homeless households who don’t have or have lost homelessness duty (for whatever reason) must still be housed

  • Need to be clear what is meant by this. If homeless households have turned down accommodation, you still have a duty to house them for example a family with children. This recommendation is open to different interpretations and should be reworded to avoid any misunderstanding.

Areas where work is already underway:

Restart of voids and lettings across SRS and PRS (to note HARSAG sets a benchmark of reaching 75% of normal capacity in phase 3)

  • Unless more voids come into system we will struggle to do anything to reduce people in temp accommodation.
  • Shutdown resulted in a loss of 9/10k voids. The housing access system is not kicking in as much as hoped. Currently at about 25% of voids processing compared to last year. As there are fewer voids we have to make sure they are processed quickly to get the process moving.
  • Earlier in the pandemic it was logistical reasons preventing voids being processed e.g. utility services, removals, furniture packs. Now people are reluctant to move home.
  • Properties for sale are coming onto the market and people are buying them and moving to new homes but moves in the rental market are slower.
  • Recognise different situations across tenures and local authorities.
  • Would be good to have information about the rate of recovery across tenures and details of any issues about RSL staff still on furlough and not back working at full capacity.

Consideration of need for national procurement to support voids processing across SRS and PRS (e.g. furniture) NB.

  • Not sure that a national procurement is required. COSLA will speak to housing officers and convenors to see if this is an issue.

Extension of evictions protections

  • Intention is that there are no evictions into homeless from any sector. Aware that there is work ongoing through the prevention review group. It would be helpful to have a conversation in advance about what will be in the next emergency powers bill.

Extension of Tribunal discretion

  • People should be given assistance or guidance about who to speak to in LA and LA should be given information to engage with/support tenants.

Pre-action protocols for the PRS

  • Covered earlier in the meeting.

Any other business

There were no discussion of the action log.

Katey thanked members for their contributions.