- 8 Sep 2020
Attendees and apologies
- Kevin Stewart - Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning
- Cllr Elena Whitham – COSLA
- Katey Tabner - COSLA
- John Blackwood - SAL
- Sally Thomas - SFHA
- Catriona MacKean - SG
- Nina Ballantyne - CAB
- Naeem Bhatti – SG
- Yvonne Gavan – SG
- Margaret Irving – SG
- Angela O’Brien - SG
Items and actions
1. Welcome / Introductions / Apologies
The Minister welcomed everyone and apologies were noted.
2. Note of previous meeting / actions
The note of the previous meeting was agreed.
3. Updates from Resilience Groups
Social Housing Resilience Group
Group discussed the following:
- HARSAG recommendations.
- Evictions and possible extension of moratorium and what it means for landlords and tenants.
- Affordable Housing programme for this year and next year.
- Sending a letter to economic sub- committee from the chairs of the 3 resilience groups.
- Meeting with the Minister and SFHA members – will come back to Minister.
- Social housing regulation framework changes.
- Mutual exchanges guidance.
Local Authority Housing Resilience Group
Group discussed the following:
- HARSAG recommendations as it related to local government.
- Broad support for the recommendations.
- Recognise that many are aspirations rather than immediate changes.
- Allocations at 80-90% should allow for local discretion.
- Make provisions for those in temporary accommodation prior to the pandemic.
- Minister is meeting housing convenors and committee members is August. A date is to be arranged.
- Moratorium on evictions needs to be discussed further.
PRS Resilience Group
- No meeting since the last Chairs meeting.
- Discussed maximising support to tenants and tenancy sustainment.
- Housing data from advice workers is a useful indicator.
- CAS and Shelter are working on what can be done to delay evictions and avoid them in the first place by using the toolkit.
- The letter to tenants is currently at the printers and will be distributed on 6 and & August.
The Minister noted the following:
Pleased that groups were considering the HARSAG 2 recommendations and will provide feedback to inform the Government response.
He has agreed the recommendations in principle and will work through all of them to ensure they do what are required.
Many are aimed at SG there is also recommendations for the UK government.
SG recognise the significant hardship caused by the pandemic and the greater possibility of evictions. SG will continue to consider under the Coronavirus Act.
Today we have launched a further campaign to get people to speak out and ask for help. This is in partnership with CAS and encourages people to get money advice if they are struggling. Important to share this widely.
Further points were made as follows:
- Bureau staff are prepared for increased enquires from the campaign and the upcoming mail shot on 6/7 August.
- RSL concerned about impact of increasing rent arrears and impacting credit scores.
- Mental health of tenants resulting from accruing large amounts of debt.
- Antisocial behaviour –serious cases causing misery because they cannot be evicted. Don’t want antisocial evictions included in any future extension.
- Minister confirmed that it is not included just now and has been deliberately excluded from moratorium for that reason. There needs to be a mechanism to deal with anti-social tenants.
- Some housing associations are concerned about the impact of accruing arrears on other tenants as the income is not there for organisations to do what they want to do. Some are saying not seen such large amounts.
- Appreciate the need to keep people safe but in doing that there are unintended consequences.
- The Minister noted that information from the regulator showed that arrears were slowing. The point of the information campaign is to signpost people so that the situation can be improved and may highlight other support they are entitled to. Action – officials to clarify to the group the current situation regarding antisocial behaviour evictions.
- In the PRS sector there was a 28 day notice period for antisocial behaviour but this has been increased to 3 months. There is also an issue as Landlords want to move back into their own property after losing jobs but this now stands at 3 month wait to regain possession.
- It was noted that the lockdown had resulted in increased antisocial behaviour complaints although some of that may be linked to a lowering of tolerance. Mediation would be helpful in many cases.
- CAS have had a number of antisocial behaviour enquires and would be happy to share stats. Action – CAS to share stats
- A recent arrears case picked up a universal credit flaw regarding payment of rent and usually the gap is met by an application to DHP however this was refused leaving the tenant unable to pay the rent. COSLA were keen to investigate as this should be met by DHP.
- Evictions – would the government consider direct financial support for tenants? The Minister noted that this should be raised with the UK government as SG has limited financial levers.
4. Housing System Policy Circle Update
Working at speed to formulate proposals for PfG. HSPC has discussed 3 areas:
- Preventing and ending homelessness.
- Housing supply and affordability.
- Housing as the basis for successful communities, employment place making, digital connectivity, climate changes and a number of other items.
Although it is a housing circle we have to take account of other policy areas such as social care, children and young people and economy as all are influenced by housing.
5. Housing Sector Recovery Plan
- The Minister noted work is underway and contributions have been provided by others.
- Intention is to have a final version by the end of the week.
- PRS group are meeting next week and hope there will still be time to add to the document. Minister noted it was a live document and that it would be helpful if any agreed comments were provided by email to ensure inclusion.
6. Any Other Business
- The Social Housing Resilience Group and the Local Government Group are moving to meetings every 2 weeks. The Minister confirmed that he was happy for this group to meet fortnightly too.
- HARSAG 2 – Minister confirmed that the key thing is to get viewpoints of all sectors involved.
- Safe Deposit Scotland is going to launch a resolution service to negotiate repayment plans. Most PRS landlords don’t have experience of dealing with this. The Minister is keen that this work is highlighted.
- The next meeting will be in 2 weeks.