Agenda and minutes

Venue: Virtual

Contact: Hannah O'Brien, Governance Officer  Email: hannah.o'brien@brent.gov.uk

Note: Please note the earlier start time of the meeting 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received as follows:

 

  • Councillor Colwill, substituted by Councillor Kansagra
  • Councillor Sangani, substituted by Councillor Long
  • Councillor Thakkar

 

2.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, the nature and existence of any relevant disclosable pecuniary or personal interests in the items on this agenda and to specify the item(s) to which they relate.

Minutes:

Personal interests were declared as follows:

  • Rev. Helen Askwith – daughter part owned a property with Network Homes
  • Mr Simon Goulden – spouse a governor at a school

 

3.

Deputations (if any)

To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 67.

Minutes:

There were no deputations received.

 

4.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 139 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record.

 

Minutes:

AGREED: That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 24 November 2020 be deferred to the following meeting so that members of the Committee had time to go through them.

 

5.

Matters arising (if any)

Minutes:

There were no matters arising.

 

6.

Brent New Council Homes Development Programme and Affordable Housing pdf icon PDF 664 KB

This report provides the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee with an overview of the Council’s efforts to increase the supply of Affordable Housing in Brent and the demand it aims to meet.

Minutes:

The Chair invited Councillor Southwood (Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform, Brent Council) to introduce the item for discussion. Councillor Southwood highlighted that the paper included information on the Council’s own new Council homes building programme and information on where the Council was working with other providers to increase the number of affordable homes in the Borough. She advised that just over 230 properties had been built and let, there were sites going through planning, and officers were looking at other schemes that may also be viable. Over 600 homes were on site, making Brent consistently the highest of all the London homes being built. The paper drew information from the recent Cabinet report, and Councillor Southwood hoped the paper gave the Committee confidence about the programme, its achievements to date and what the pipeline looked like.

 

John Magness (Head of Housing Supply and Partnerships, Brent Council) added that more handovers had taken place the previous day, increasing the number of new properties to 255. He advised these numbers changed on a daily basis.

The Chair thanked the housing team for their introductions and invited the Committee to raise comments and questions, with the following issues raised:

 

The Committee wanted assurance that the affordable housing referenced in the report was genuine affordable housing and that it would meet the local needs including the different types of accommodation needed, the size of homes needed, and housing need in light of the findings of the Brent Poverty Commission report. Councillor Southwood expressed that she would be happy to provide that assurance and noted that the good thing about the Council doing its own infill for council homes was that it had control and flexibility over what that looked like. When the team looked at potential sites they talked to the housing needs service to determine what Brent actually needed and doing infill development meant the Council could design those schemes to meet actual need. For example, sometimes the Council had opted to build fewer homes at larger sizes to cater to that need for larger homes. All new build Council homes were at London affordable rent and all new schemes, including those where the Council worked with partners, would seek to deliver rent levels either at London affordable or social housing rent levels.

 

The Committee asked what definition of affordable housing the report was using. Councillor Southwood explained that the reason affordable was used was because there were different types of rent levels, for example any new build was rented at London affordable rates, but legacy developments or Section 106 developments could differ. Hakeem Osinaike, Operational Director for Housing, added that before the programme began the department first wanted to understand what affordability meant to Brent residents therefore commissioned research by Cambridge University, so that the Council were clear what rent levels would apply to the majority of people the Council knew were of housing need. Therefore, he explained, when the report referred to affordable it did not refer to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2020-2025 pdf icon PDF 169 KB

This report updates the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee on delivery to date on the objectives of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2020-25. The report includes an update on the Council’s response to provide emergency accommodation to single homeless people as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the request by central government for local authorities to accommodate all rough sleepers and people at risk of sleeping rough, including people with No Recourse to Public Funds.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Southwood (Lead Member Housing and Welfare Reform, Brent Council) introduced the report which provided the committee with details of the past year regarding rough sleeping, the various activities undertaken and where the department were now in terms of the various ways the cohort of people who were part of the  Everyone In initiative were gradually moving into more sustainable accommodation. The initiative was set up by the Government, working with local authorities. The report also updated the Committee on the homelessness and rough sleeping strategy, and Councillor Southwood noted some of what had been planned had not been possible due to the pandemic however in other ways the opportunity to bring people off the streets and offer a level of support they may not ordinarily have had was huge.

 

The Committee asked what impact the pandemic had on homelessness across the Borough. Councillor Southwood advised that for many residents who were at risk of homelessness, such as sofa surfers, the Everyone In strategy offered them the opportunity to go through the Council to access emergency accommodation on a temporary basis, and she felt that for a lot of those people that was a huge opportunity. For people in quite an insecure existence regarding homelessness, Councillor Southwood informed the Committee that many were now in a better situation than they would have been prior to covid. She highlighted that rough sleepers were hugely exposed to covid and the new virulent strains caused worry because for rough sleepers it was hard to self-isolate and often they would have underlying health conditions. She acknowledged that a report in the news suggested a lot of rough sleepers had since returned to the streets, but assured Committee that at the time of the meeting that return to the streets had not been seen in Brent and the overnight rough sleeping count conducting in November showed a reduction in numbers compared to the previous year. Laurence Coaker (Head of Housing Needs, Brent Council) advised Committee that the pandemic had the biggest impact on single homeless people, and that Brent now had historically low numbers of people on the streets. This had been helped by the implementation of the severe weather protocol where the homelessness service had block booked hotel rooms for single homeless people to go, whereas in previous years the Council would have relied on community winter shelters to shelter homeless people which was no longer viable due to the pandemic.

 

The Committee also discussed the impact of the pandemic on homeless families. Laurence Coaker advised that the main driver for homelessness was affordability and evictions from the private sector, therefore because of the eviction ban the number of families that presented as homeless reduced significantly. This was now beginning to pick up and there was worry that going forward with the economic downturn, more people out of work and the lifting of the eviction ban there would be a spike in family homelessness coming in the calendar year. Councillor Southwood explained that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Delivery of Affordable Housing by i4B pdf icon PDF 179 KB

This report provides an update on i4B’s operational performance. The report includes an update on i4B’s delivery of its policy objectives of providing good quality affordable housing and reducing the use of temporary accommodation.

Minutes:

Councillor McLennan (Deputy Leader, Brent Council) introduced the report, explaining that i4B was set up as an organisation to address Brent’s homelessness needs. She explained that between 2010 and 2015 homelessness doubled in Brent, so alternatives were looked at for the community. It was felt that the accommodation being secured at the time was unaffordable and unacceptable and the Council did not want their residents to be living in those conditions, therefore the Council set up a private Company in 2016 to address the issues, support the housing market and ensure people were placed in decent homes and had security. The report highlighted where i4B was, i4B’s performance and its future.

 

Martin Smith (Chair of i4B) agreed that i4B’s principal purpose was to provide good quality, genuine affordable housing in properties that were managed by a responsible and decent landlord. The mechanism whereby the Company looked to do that for that past 4 years was to buy property on the open market, mainly in Brent, refurbish them to a good standard, and then let to people who may otherwise be placed in temporary accommodation. He advised that all properties i4B let were at rent levels no greater than the local housing allowance for the relevant location and were therefore genuinely affordable. By the end of the last calendar year i4B had purchased 302 properties and provided homes for 297 families with 713 children. He felt certain that without the Council’s initiative to set up i4B all of those people would be in temporary accommodation. He also noted that over the past 12 months i4B had been progressing a purchase on a Quintain block in the Wembley Park development with the specific purpose of providing affordable accommodation for key workers in hard to recruit areas, with properties rented at a discount. I4B expected to start letting those properties in February. He noted that this was a different sort of product to what the Company had been doing but that it contributed to the overall objective of increasing the proportion of Brent housing stock that was genuinely affordable to people in different parts of the market. The Company’s plans for the future were broadly to continue along that route and look for other opportunities that became available. I4B currently had just over 350 properties, with an additional 153 properties from the key worker block, and it was expected that another 180 properties would be added to the portfolio over the next few years, so by 2023 the Company should expect to have around 600 properties.

 

Peter Gadsdon (Company Director, i4B) added that the Company had been through the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee, with questions about the difference between i4B and Croydon’s Brick by Brick. He clarified that the Companies had very different models with very different risk profiles, and i4B purchased properties on the open market, refurbished them and let them, working around a net yield model over 30 years meaning the Company would not buy properties it could not afford  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

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.