- 17 Nov 2020
Attendees and apologies
Kevin Stewart - Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning
Cllr Elena Whitham – COSLA
Anil Gupta, COSLA
Sally Thomas - SFHA
Nina Ballantyne - CAB
John Blackwood - SAL
Catriona MacKean - SG
Angela O’Brien - SG
Charlotte McHaffie – SG
Margaret Irving – SG
Naeem Bhatti – SG
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.
3. Updates from Resilience Groups
Social Housing Resilience Group
Group discussed the following:
- Draft Infrastructure Investment Plan – Broadly welcomed by the sector as starting point and building as many homes as possible.
- Tenant Hardship Loan Fund - submissions have been made and look forward to working with government to finalise details and help with delivery
- Restarting services – Sector welcomes clarification on the exemption of trades people.
- Discussed having a letter from SG and COSLA to reassure a range of people that these exemptions are in place. Need to use various media platforms to ensure information is available as it is important to keep services going.
- Digital sign ups – there is a lot more digital engagement particularly for tenancy arrangements. May require legislation change and are discussing with SG officials.
- SFHA is releasing report on financial resilience on 8 October. Arrears are still increasing; voids lost are still a concern. It also picks up on the cost of emergency repairs, cost and supply of materials and the length of contracts. Will work with government to minimise the impact.
- Homelessness – looking forward to HARSAG announcement tomorrow. Also discussed 80/90% allocations to homeless.
- Internal Market Bill – implication on housing associations, building and quality standards. Work with colleagues in Wales and others.
- Care and Support and national care review and housing sector being involved.
- Test and protect – PHS are meeting with Wheatley to discuss guidance.
- Fire Safety – fire suppression will be explored.
- Domestic Abuse legislation – pleased to see this coming into effect.
- Terms of reference and possible merger with local authority group but not at the moment however will keep on agenda.
Local Authority Housing Resilience Group
Group discussed the following:
- Presentation from PRS sector. Issues raised included surplus of 1 bed properties and how to capitalise on this going forward especially as there are lots of people in currently temporarily housed in hotels.
- Appears to be return to rough sleeping in some town centres following people leaving hotel accommodation. Need to work together to maximise housing options for people in this situation.
- Tenants that can’ pay rent have been supported and there have been continued interactions between landlord and tenants.
- Advice lines have been well used. There has been 80% increase on antisocial behaviour complaints.
- Discussion about housing tribunals which are now operating. Teleconference facilities makes it easier for people to take part.
- The number of people wanting to view properties has increased.
- Voids – The number of voids has reduced from a level of 14/15k to 8k/9k
- Good to have highlighted that trades people can still enter homes.
- Matching service between GCC and Wheatley Group means that tenancy offer refusals have reduced from 30% to 14%
- Discussion about no recourse to public funds (NRPF)
- Update from SG covering Loan agreements, Energy saving Trust, Grenfell.
- Role of RRTP was welcomed and will feature in ending homelessness plan over next few months.
PRS Resilience Group
The group discussed the following:
- Short term lets legislation and consultation.
- Tenants loan - Might not be enough and may need more. DHP and how this might be used to support tenants.
- Terms of reference of the group.
- Trades people – in PRS sector trades are back to business as usual.
- Discussion with SG and COSLA about DHP. Group would like to be connected into this work and contribute where possible.
- Group plans to invite Police Scotland to a future meeting to discuss illegal evictions.
- New CAS stats will be released soon. These show advice requests levelling off but this may spike again.
- Welcomed financial assistance so far.
- If future announcements lead to restrictions and possible redundancies in vulnerable industries it is important that we get the information about DHP out to people.
The Minister noted the following:
- Infrastructure Investment Plan – there was a misunderstanding about this and it would have been better if the sector had clarified the situation. Officials and the Minister are always available if the sector want to check information.
- Domestic abuse legislation – pleased that this has been raised at the groups. Good to see this come to fruition and is largely due to the work of domestic abuse victims in Fife who felt they had not been listened to and wanted change.
- Void properties and allocations – still too slow. Needs to be sharing of best practice from LA such as South Lanarkshire.
- Trades people – agree with construction to put out more messaging about this. Action SG - check with SG construction colleagues.
- The Minister is happy write to people about the use of trades people but it will take work to get the message across. He noted that there appeared to be geographical issues and resistance from older people. Important that we get the message across.
- Homelessness – rise in rough sleeping. Not the case in Glasgow – aware that there are 9 hard core rough sleepers that won’t come in but this has been the case all through the pandemic. Difficulty is that although people are being moved out of hotels into other accommodation, these spaces are being filled by others needing hotel space. Aberdeen has no rough sleepers at present and Dundee is similar. Edinburgh this is an issue which is being monitored closely.
- Allocations – should still be 80/90% for homeless and need to all agree we need to max this as much as possible.
- Internal Market – This is a real threat to Scotland. Removal of powers from here by UK will interfere with many things at national and local government level. Standards in England not as good as Scotland. It has been 17 years since 2003 Act which created real divergence in building standards which has been better for Scotland.
- Advice and signposting – we are still relying on partners for this work. Additional DHP money has gone to LA and we have had discussions with COSLA. Number of LA are doing best to get funds out to people but there are some that need to do a bit more work.
- The group discussed the advantages of having a separate building standards in Scotland which were better.
- Important to get the views of RSLs and LA heard.
- The Minister noted that he wants uniformity to help industry who acknowledge themselves that they are building better product in Scotland.
- SFHA noted that the announcement about the IIP settlement was better than expected given the financial situation.
4. Housing System Policy Circle Update
Sally Thomas, joint chair of the HSPC, provided an update.
- SRAB met this morning. This time it focussed on the work of the work food low income and financial security circles.
- HSPC are meeting tomorrow and will continue work on lived experience and how equalities proof the work we are doing. The discussion will also include aligning housing to 2040 principles with UN guidelines on right to an adequate home.
Others in the group commented:
- There was a good discussion at SRAB about community wealth building and involving the general population. Can’t underestimate the importance of housing.
- The work of the HSPC has progressed well compared to other circles on which the chairs are represented.
- CAS are looking at case notes to identify housing issues to feed into lived experience.
- Recognise 2040 is not that far away especially as Housing associations usually plan for 30 year timescales.
- Good to follow international best practice of UN guidelines.
- It takes a lot of work to gather data but good to have understanding about rent levels, voids etc.
- The work will happen in stages – the long 20 year plan, the medium term plans on emerging from this crisis and short term plans for next year’s budget. It is about trying to get the balance right.
5. Any Other Business
SG updated on the Tenant Hardship Fund. The questionnaire was sent to the 3 resilience groups and it was good to get feedback. A submission will be sent to the Minister shortly with a number of options for his consideration. The fund will be delivered through the Energy Saving Trust.
The members of the group would be happy to be involved in discussions and SG noted their willingness to contribute.
The next meeting will in two weeks.