Progress on Housing Asset Management Strategy
This report provides a progress update to the Housing Scrutiny Committee on developing the Council’s Asset Management Strategy and what the next steps will be, including the consideration of the full Asset Management Strategy by Cabinet in April 2019.
Sean Gallagher (Head of Housing Property Needs, Brent Council) presented a report which updated the committee on progress and next steps towards developing the Council’s Housing Asset Management Strategy and sought members’ views on how it could be improved further. Members heard that an essential part of the draft strategy was the stock condition survey which was completed in the period between May and October 2018, surveying 100% of all external and 20% of internal arrangements.
Responding to members’ questions on projections of demands and forward planning, Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director Housing, Brent Council) explained that the strategy was aimed at building long term commitment including future opportunities over a period of time ranging from 1 to 30 years. As such, the existing conditions could be mechanically assessed via a formula to plan ahead in terms of financial arrangements. However, he reminded members that the strategy was a live document, updated on an annual basis but also influenced by changes to local demographics, political context and overall shape of stock. Therefore, a combination of accurate data and continuous clear steer from the executive was seen as essential in informing key decisions, maintaining assets and adequately projecting needs.
Members sought clarification on any plans the Housing Management Team had to improve estates, create a better living environment for residents and adequately manage expectations in terms of waiting lists/bidding system. In response, Mr Osinaike explained that the focus of the strategy was property maintenance, rather than building homes. A separate programme existed for new homes and addressing issues of long waiting lists for social housing. Referencing figures in the report, a question also arose on the potential of the strategy to expand beyond maintenance. Officers reiterated that the figures provided were for illustrative purposes only and stressed that further work was required before the strategy could be refined and considered representative of local context.
Responding to further questions on future planning and return of investments, Hakeem Osinaike explained that the Council’s existing stock was worth significantly more than what it was originally built for – a price which was likely to increase in value with each subsequent investment made by the Council. Reminding members of the Council’s primary aim to provide quality affordable accommodation for its residents, he added that the right to buy scheme was also being reviewed, with the possibility of lifting some of the existing restrictions.
The committee enquired on the South Kilburn Regeneration Project and in particular the duration of the projection which they felt had taken too long. Acknowledging members concerns, officers provided assurances that the Council was committed to alleviating existing issues on estates and deliver value for money accommodation, in consultation with its residents. Elaborating on the delay in the South Kilburn project, it was explained that this was a result of decision made to limit unnecessary relocation of residents and cause minimal disruption, while the new accommodation was being built.
Discussion moved on towards specific details of the strategy with the following points being raised:
· Due regard taken of implications of climate change and rise of temperatures and how this was factored in building of homes, with financial resources and assumptions factored in the design specifications. .
· Overall commitment by central government towards limiting number of non-electric cars and installing more electric car charging points. However, within the context of Brent, a policy would need to be developed in order to understand the market and potential demand for it.
· Bike storage, particularly in old buildings, not included in strategy yet but would be considered
· Wider digital provision being explored, including extra broadband provision.
· Use of green products was being considered. However, understanding of existing stock as well as the longevity of the products themselves and relevant consultation were required prior to implementation. Furthermore, a balance had to be stricken between affordability and amount of returns within the context of the council strategy, alongside an appropriate timetable.
· Redundant garages had been surveyed with more details expected to emerge as part of ongoing consultation
Finally, in terms of future steps, the committee heard that these included a data validation to ensure robustness, a fire risk report expected by January 2019 and a preparation of a first draft of the strategy. Completion of the latter was planned for February 2019, following which it would be referred for consideration to Cabinet by April – May 2019.
i. That an additional housing scrutiny meeting be convened to discuss the first draft of the asset management strategy report in early 2019 (date to be confirmed).
ii. That Housing Management Team provides committee members with a progress update on South Kilburn Regeneration Project.