Please note: there is a joint presentation for the Housing Crisis and Private Rented Sector Items
Sarah Spicer,Business Planning and Service Development Manager, Bristol City Council, delivered a presentation (the slides are included in the published pack).
The following are some of the key discussion points:
· Comparing house prices in Bristol to those in other Core Cities in the decade between August 2008 and August 2018 indicates that not only does Bristol have the highest average house price of all the Core Cities, it has also seen the highest percentage increase.
· In August 2018 the average house price in Bristol was £282,624, 21.4% higher than the UK average
· There is a growing disparity between housing benefit rates and actual market rents across the city.
· The increase in Part 7 housing acceptances in Bristol reflects the increase in demand for homelessness prevention services city wide over the past five year period.
· Rough sleepers and households in temporary accommodation represent an element of housing need, not taking into account hidden homelessness (sofa surfing etc) and households in appropriate accommodation.
· The City is on track to deliver 800 new affordable homes in 2020/21, in-line with the target set by the political administration.
The Chair asked about the divergence between the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and market rents
o The 4 year period of a freeze on LHA is not yet over, and there is no indication of a review at the end of the 4 year period.
o The LHA applied to Bristol includes South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. This is an issue as markets in the Authorities are different.
o Cabinet Member met with Secretary of State and raised the disparity as an issue for Bristol, and requested that Bristol is treated as one market rather than within a wider housing market area.
Discussion about homelessness and rough sleeping in Bristol. Questions raised:
o A Member requested clarification of Part 7.
o A Member asked what the main issues leading to homelessness are.
o A Member asked if there is an understanding of reasons for different levels of presenting as homelessness across different groups (highlighted care leavers having a higher rate of presenting as homeless).
o A Member requested clarification of how the rough sleeping data is collected.
o A Member asked if there is data on how many homeless people have come in to the city from other parts of the country, and if there is any analysis of reasons for this.
o Part 7 of the 1996 Housing Act is primary homelessness legislation, providing the statutory under-pinning for action to prevent homelessness and provide assistance to people threatened with or actually homeless. In April 2018 Part 7 was amended with the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which has placed further duties on the Council to enable access to assistance to people to prevent homelessness.
o The Council has noted a lot of people have lost their rented accommodation in the private sector, with a high amount of s21 notices being served, which provides private tenants with 2 months notice (after the fixed term period which is usually 6 months). The Council is focusing on preventative work.
o People are living in their parents’ homes for longer now, as a result of affordability and lack of opportunity to get on the housing ladder.
o The statistics (on Slide 5 of the presentation) show how many people the Council accepted a duty for; but, there are many more 100’s of households the Council assist in preventing from getting in to the situation where they may become homeless.
o Formerly looked after children (in LA care) have a higher risk of homelessness and treated as more vulnerable if they have left care within 3 years; and there is an automatic priority for those who leave care under 21.
o There is a standard methodology for collecting rough sleeping data - the Council complies with that. Also, it depends when the count is carried out. It is a snap-shot; a point in time. The next count (2018 data) is this month, and the information will be made available afterwards.
o The Streetwise team in the Council have contact with a cohort of street homeless with drug and alcohol misuse issues, who are difficult to engage in support services. A new Street Intervention team is being set up, with a multi-agency approach, with the aim of tackling this issue.
Cabinet Member: Bristol, as regional capital, will attract people from outside the city. Bristol has wider provision than regional towns. The data does not include all homelessness, eg those in night shelters. Street homeless is 3% of homelessness, although it has disproportionate attention. There are many other groups who are in temporary accommodation.
The Chair asked why temporary accommodation is difficult for couples to access.
o Pathways programme (partnership to enable homelessness prevention and recovery) is targeted at single people; and there are very few temporary accommodation options for couples
Cabinet Member: Pathways addresses whole range of needs (including health, education), so people are able to sustain tenancies.
ACTION: Officer to confirm when the data from the November 2018 rough sleeping count will be available
ACTION: Officer to provide data showing the amount of single people presenting as homeless
The Chair asked what the proportion is of Council temporary accommodation and commissioned private landlord provision.
o At any one time there are 250-300 households placed in emergency spot purchased accommodation. Housing benefit does not cover the full cost of these.
Cabinet Member: The aim is reduce this number by placing people in Council accommodation. The Council aims to secure more Council accommodation for this purpose, financed through housing benefit. The Council is over-dependent on one private provider at the moment. This is being tackled by entering the market to secure accommodation; and rather than sell stock at auction the Council is now utilising it for temporary accommodation. Also the Council encourages Housing Associations to make units available for temporary accommodation.
Discussion surrounding the costs and benefits of building more homes to be used as temporary accommodation, rather than spot purchasing in the private sector.
ACTION: Officer to provide cost/benefit analysis of building more homes for temporary accommodation as opposed to spot purchasing.
A Member asked whether reports of private landlords selling may affect the Council’s ability to provide temporary accommodation
o This will put more in the housing market. This will benefit the Real Letting scheme, a social lettings agency.
o Some smaller providers are getting out of the market. Large portfolio holders are taking up the slack. So there is a growth in larger providers’ portfolios.
o There is an opportunity to purchase available housing for affordable housing as they come onto the market. This may result is a number of properties being built being static or falling, although affordable housing growing.
A Member asked what the projections of new build are, and whether projections are anticipated to change due the changes/downturn in the housing market.
o There is an upward shift on affordable housing delivery –overall figure will increase.
o There are fluctuations on quarterly returns. Reasons include Registered Providers’ positions can change; and also the Council housing delivery has been reprogrammed as a result of the borrowing cap proposal – so predictions will change.
o Brexit is having and will have a big impact on the market. Bristol is flattening out. There is more uncertainty.
o 1500 out of the programmed 3500 homes are showing due to the fact some will take some years to come through.
Cabinet Member: Also working on off-site manufacture to speed up delivery at no impact to quality.
Discussion and Members questions about what the identified affordable housing need by property type/size/tenure is; and the affordable housing rent levels of new builds, including whether Affordable Rent is appropriate.
o When seeking appropriate proportion of affordable housing on developments we look for a range of sizes. There is a shift to smaller accommodation as a result of welfare reform, which could lead to an imbalance. The Council works with Registered Providers to help improve the supply of 3 and 4 bed properties which helps create churn. i.e a 4 bed property can create 6 moves. Investigating opportunities to build more family housing so as to create churn.
Cabinet Member: Affordable Rent has to be at or below the LHA – BCC does have a strict definition of Affordable Housing – also accepted by surrounding Authorities. Latest Homes England funding has an element of social rent in it. West of England funding will include social rent.
ACTION: Officer to map new development programme by ward
ACTION: Officer to confirm amount of shared ownership delivered
A Member raised issue of empty basement flats within properties in the Ashley ward.
o This was looked at when drawing up St Paul’s Housing Plan. The properties are mostly owned by Registered Providers. The identified problem was poor living conditions in the basements, which means large expenditure to make them habitable.
o Approximately 300 empty properties brought back into use this year – target of 400 (city wide). The Council as a Compulsory purchase programme in place. In the last month the Council were successful in enabling a voluntary purchase of a property, which is now used for temporary accommodation.
Cabinet Member: There is a programme within Council housing stock looking at whether commercial and community spaces can be brought into use as housing, although this is not intended to reduce any community amenities, and so this begins with consultation.