Agenda and minutes

Housing Scrutiny Committee
Thursday 22 February 2018 7.00 pm

Venue: Boardrooms 3-5 - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ. View directions

Contact: Nikoleta Nikolova, Governance Officer  Email: Nikoleta.Nikolova@brent.gov.uk, tel: 0208 937 1587

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Cllrs Hylton and Shaw

 

2.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, the existence and nature of any relevant disclosable pecuniary, personal or prejudicial interests in the items on this agenda and to specify the item/s to which that interest relates.

Minutes:

None declared.

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 103 KB

To approve the attached minutes from the previous meeting on 16 January 2018 as a correct record.

Minutes:

It was RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting held on 16 January 2018 be approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

 

4.

Matters arising (if any)

To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

None

5.

Deputations (if any)

To hear any deputations received from members of the public in

accordance with Standing Order 67.

 

 

Minutes:

None

6.

Petitions (if any)

To discuss any petitions from members of the public, in accordance with Standing Order 66.

Minutes:

None

7.

Order of business

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the order of business be amended as set up below.

 

8.

Brent based Registered Providers (RP) Delivery of Social Housing pdf icon PDF 167 KB

This is a report on Registered Providers active in the borough and the level and quality of services they deliver to local residents in partnership with the Council.

 

 

Minutes:

The meeting was joined by Debbie Smith (Head of Region, Genesis), Carl Byrne (Director of Housing, Genesis) and Jeff Fletcher (Business Manager, Genesis) who introduced the report and gave members a high level oversight of Genesis’s service delivery to residents in Brent. Members heard that as one of the leading housing associations in the UK, Genesis demonstrated a strong presence, with more than 6000 properties in the borough as of March 2017.

 

The committee heard that Genesis was committed to working and maintaining strong relationship with residents and landlords. As part of this, all tenants had been issued with a handbook, setting out clear expectations and responsibilities.  Moreover, clear communication channels existed and residents could contact Genesis through their customer service contact centre and central email address as well as seek information on their website when necessary. Members were also updated that on 1st February 2018 a decision had been made by Genesis to merge with Notting Hill Housing. The merge would happen over a transition period of at least two years, during which IT systems as well as service and management structures would be integrated. As part of the merger process, plans were being put in place to appoint a local contact officer, whose details would be shared upon completion of the process.

 

Responding to members’ enquiries on the relationship between Genesis and residents, officers explained that whilst challenging due to the on street location of most properties, Genesis was committed to address this and engage with residents as much as possible. As part of this, regular site inspections were carried out on a quarterly basis and residents were invited to join. In addition, residents were encouraged to take part in forums and information was shared through the use of noticeboards, newsletters and email updates. Genesis stated a commitment to support setting up of residents groups to set up and there was a designated team to support this process. Finally, members heard that residents were encouraged to engage at various stages of housing management contracts monitoring processes, especially with contractors to scrutinise their work and that this was promoted throughout the entire stock of properties

 

On the matter of engagement, members noted that significant issues still existed in terms of regular and consistent engagement with local councillors, with little or no follow up given on members’ enquiries. Acknowledging the Committee’s concerns, Genesis gave assurances that members views would be taken on board and Genesis would seek to address these in order to bring it up to the required standard. In welcoming members recommendations, officers stated that should members have any unresolved queries then these could be send to the designated members enquiries email address for further consideration and response. In addition, Genesis updated that it was in the process of introducing a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system which would further improve its ability to process and provide an audit trail of all interactions made.

 

When asked about the conversion of social tenancies to affordable rents, Genesis explained  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Find your home Programme pdf icon PDF 148 KB

This report provides an update on the general performance of the Find Your Home scheme, the extent to which it is meeting its objectives and the impact the scheme is having on residents in general.

Minutes:

Laurence Coaker, Head of Housing Needs, Brent Council introduced the report and outlined the main points. He explained that following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act in April 2017 it had become a statutory duty for all local authorities to provide suitable accommodation to all eligible residents. As part of this duty, the Council had initiated the Find Your Home (FYH) scheme, as a vehicle for involvement with and providing tailored approach to homeless families before they get evicted by empowering them in finding alternative accommodation. Members heard that since its launch in 2015, the scheme had helped over 3000 families who have met the statutory eligibility test.

 

Highlighting upon the financial implications of the Find Your Home scheme, Mr Coaker explained that the Council worked with families and conducted a series of checks to ensure the safety and affordability of the chosen accommodation. In cases where private property tenancies would need to be signed, the Council would also pay an advance incentive to landlords of up to the value of £3300 to secure the tenancy. Responding to members’ questions, Mr Coaker explained that incentive payments were required due to the highly competitive nature of the private rental market. The incentives were primarily applied to short term tenancies (up to 12 months) and paid after a tenancy had been signed in order to secure it, with the full property portfolio being regularly monitored by the Council to ensure legality and landlords’ compliance with the scheme.

 

Whilst acknowledging the positive trend in overall reduction in temporary accommodation in Brent compared to other boroughs, members felt that overall focus should nevertheless be on prevention of homelessness and finding suitable offers to applicants. Mr Coaker stated that residents choices were being taken into account when considering location of offered properties, provided they met the eligibility criteria. Alternative options were available for those who didn’t meet the criteria but either way all residents were treated equally. The same criteria was applied to ensure no one is disadvantaged, irrespective of their social/economic background. Members were assured of the Council’s commitment to maintain a close relationship with families whilst ensuring that the system is tailored to the applicants needs and provides them with adequate and practical support

 

In welcoming the scheme, members noted that private rented sector accommodation was not a long-term solution and was only effective as a short-term intervention. It was noted that further consideration should be taken not just on the state of properties alone but also on the landlords who manage them. In response, officers explained that the Find Your Home scheme was part of an overall housing strategy and other approaches were also ongoing. Private landlords were welcoming reliable tenants so in this sense private sector was seen as fairly secure. Addressing members concerns about rogue landlords, officers assured that whilst some did still exist, the Council was making sure that they were avoided and checked before any residents could enter into a tenancy with them.

 

Finally, members were updated  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Brent Housing Management (BHM) Development Plans pdf icon PDF 132 KB

This report seeks to update Housing Scrutiny Committee on the Council Housing Development Plans and Infill Programme.

 

Housing demand in Brent follows the London trend and the Council is developing its full response to the service needs via its Housing Strategy. The Housing Strategy will be reported to members separately.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Referencing the information in the report and accompanying appendices, Hakeem Osinaike, Operational Director Housing, Brent Council gave an update on the Council’s Housing Development Plans and Infill Programme. He explained that housing demand in Brent was in line with the overall London trend and that the plans, which were part of the Council’s Housing Strategy, were aiming at responding to the service needs.

 

In welcoming the report, members sought further information on some of the financial aspects of the scheme. Responding to members queries on whether retained Right to Buy receipts were utilised, officers explained that receipts could be used to fund up to 30% of the development costs, with the property valued at point of sale and formula applied to calculate any discounts. Officers also informed that as part of the Capital Development Programme, a fire safety scheme was also being carried out as part of ongoing refurbishment works. However, whilst overall financing of the scheme was protected, the Council was capped in terms of how much it could borrow so it was important to ascertain that the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) remained balanced in order to ensure that borrowing was affordable and sustainable and could be used to find other developments in the long term. 

 

In terms of community improvements, officers explained that where needed these would form part of an extensive consultation. Realistic demands could be made by residents provided they were also in the interest of the Council. In cases, where improvements were required as a result of damages or disruption caused, these would requested directly from the contractors. Members stressed the importance to consult with residents on any incentives available from contractors as well as looking at overall price and quality of service provided.

 

Referencing paragraph 3.7 from the report, members sought clarification on the affordability of housing units. Mr Osinaike explained that the Council had to make balanced choices and numbers of social housing were dependent on borrowing and repaying money factors. Going forward officers noted that it was unlikely for local authorities to invest in building as much social housing as before, with any social housing commissioned requiring full viability assessment.

 

9.45pm – Cllr Daly left the meeting

 

Finally, members touched upon parking arrangements on sites where garages had to be removed. Hakeem Osinaike responded that the current parking arrangements were being reviewed and Council was looking at introducing new parking scheme and any proposed changes would be consulted on. He updated members that there was a growing need for an appropriate enforcement policy to be out in place and that if scheme was to be successful then Council would consider plans to introduce a more efficient system.

 

RESOLVED that:

      i.        The contents of the report be noted

    ii.        Progress update on Ainsworth Close be shared with committee

   iii.        Confirmation on exact location of Gladstone Park property and whether it sits on a council estate be shared with the committee

 

11.

Housing Management - Customer Service

As part of the ongoing Housing Management Customer Service review, the committee will hear a formal deputation received from Mr Neil Roddy.

 

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED that:

      i.        The report on Housing Management – Customer Service, including statistics on call centre performance be deferred until the next meeting on 21 March 2018

 

12.

Housing Scrutiny Committee 2017-18 Work Programme pdf icon PDF 102 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED that:

      i.        The contents of the updated work programme be noted

 

13.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Head of Executive and Member Services or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 60.

Minutes:

None.