HQN Strategic Network News

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Each week Jo Barratt and Emma Lindley, associates for The Strategic Network, go over the biggest and most relevant news stories, reports and publications of the past week for members, while providing their own analysis and comment.

For more expert analysis, briefings and best practice for those involved in policy, strategy and the private rented sector, be sure to join The Strategic Network. You can find out more here.

Week commencing 24 June 2019 – by Jo Barrett

Government funding to unlock housing developments

£142m investment in infrastructure will be spent on widening bridges, building roads and connecting utilities so up to 8,500 properties can be built.

The funding comes from the government’s £5.5bn Housing Infrastructure Fund so that land can be made ready for development. Money is allocated to authorities after a competitive funding allocation process.

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Right to Buy stats released

Information on Right to Buy demand has been published.  This shows that in Q4 2018-19, local authorities sold an estimated 2,612 dwellings under the Right to Buy scheme. This equates to approximately £219.7m from Right to Buy sales.  Interestingly this is 16% lower than the £262.4m in the same quarter of 2017-18. The average receipt per dwelling sold in Q4 2018-19 was £84,100. This compares to £82,800 in the same quarter of 2017-18.  There were 1,406 dwellings started on site or acquired (as part of Right to Buy replacement policy) in Q4 2018-19 and this is 13% lower than the number of dwellings started or acquired in the same quarter of 2017-18.

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Speedier housing adaptations

The Royal College of Occupational therapists (RCOT) has launched a new guide, ‘Adaptations without delay’ which will help speed up the process of delivering adaptations to people’s homes.

The overall aim of the guide is to reduce delays in delivery of adaptations and does so by providing tools that support a proportionate response. The guide contains a decision-making framework that outlines new ways of working that includes the different levels of complexity of a situation and the most appropriate response.

This will be of interest to staff working on DFGs and in Home Improvement Agencies as well as health housing and social care commissioners.

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Consultation from RSH

The Regulator of Social Housing is running an eight week consultation on changes to its guidance on intervention, enforcement and use of powers.  The proposed updates reflect legislative changes, including the introduction of the housing and administration regime, the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 and the move to a standalone status for the Regulator.

The guidance sets out the Regulator’s general approach to intervention and enforcement of registered providers and reinforces the high-level objectives and principles underpinning its approach to dealing with poor performance in a rapidly-changing social housing sector.

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LGiU – Homelessness is a Result of ‘National Policy Failure’

Today, the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has launched the final report from the Local Government Homelessness Commission (LGHC), a year-long initiative set up to investigate how councils can fulfil their obligation to prevent homelessness.

In the report, the LGHC argues that a comprehensive housing and homelessness strategy is desperately needed to address the underlying causes of homelessness and give councils the powers and resources they need to carry out their duties. Commissioners concluded that the recent dramatic rise in homelessness across the UK is a result of national policy failure. Rough sleeping is just the tip of the iceberg. Tackling homelessness and addressing its causes is a long-term project that needs to draw on partners and organisations from across the public sector and cannot be solved by reactive homelessness services alone.

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Week commencing 17 June 2019 – by Emma Lindley

One in ten forced to report same problem with their social home more than ten times

Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, Shelter is warning the government must listen to the third of families with children in social housing who feel less safe in their homes and take urgent action to prevent further tragedies.

The government is proposing a new building safety regulator, but the housing charity fears this will not go far enough to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all tenants is protected. That is why Shelter is standing with Grenfell United to call on the government to introduce a tough, new consumer regulator that protects tenants and proactively inspects social landlords.

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Interest free loans could prevent homelessness and save councils millions

A homeless prevention interest free loan scheme in Lewisham, which has helped over 300 families escape eviction and saved the council over £1m, could be replicated across the UK a new study suggests.

This study has shown how a grant providing 0% interest loans to families, at high risk of eviction who would otherwise be unable to access finance or credit, could play an important role in preventing further additions to the homeless crisis in the UK.

The study details how in 2010 Lewisham Council partnered with Lewisham Plus Credit Union – a community-based credit union catering for people living or working in Lewisham and Bromley – to introduce the £85,000 grant scheme in a bid to help these vulnerable people.

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Single mother wins court battle after being forced into homelessness due to housing benefit shortfall

A single mother who was forced out of her home because of a shortfall in housing benefit has won a legal challenge against her local council’s decision to treat her and her children as intentionally homeless.

The woman, known only as Ms Samuels, was using non-housing benefits, intended to cover other living costs like food and clothing, to cover the £35 weekly gap between her housing benefit and her rent.

When she lost her private tenancy, the mother-of-four approached Birmingham City Council for homeless assistance, explaining that she could not meet the shortfall.

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What will it take for the UK to reach net zero emissions?

The net zero carbon target will require sweeping changes to almost every aspect of British life, affecting our homes, food and the way we get around, as well as jobs and businesses across the board. Ministers hope there will be health benefits and improvements to the natural environment along the way, as well as helping to stave off the global climate emergency.

This article explains some of the implications which will be of interest to housing providers and developers, such as phasing out gas, driving up electrical car use, zero emission housebuilding and refurbishment, improving energy efficiency of housing, plsnting more trees, using waste food as a heat source, etc.

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RESPECT women: preventing violence against women

This framework by the World Health Organisation contains a set of action-oriented steps that enables policymakers and health implementers to design, plan, implement, monitor and evaluate interventions and programmes using seven strategies to prevent Violence Against Women. The strategies are summarized in R.E.S.P.E.C.T, with each letter representing one strategy.

R – Relationship skills strengthened. This refers to strategies to improve skills in interpersonal communication, conflict management and shared decision-making.
E – Empowerment of women. This refers to economic and social empowerment strategies including those that build skills in self-efficacy, assertiveness, negotiation, and self-confidence.
S – Services ensured. This refers to a range of services including health, police, legal, and social services for survivors of violence.
P – Poverty reduced. This refers to strategies targeted to women or the household, whose primary aim is to alleviate poverty.
E – Environments made safe. This refers to efforts to create safe schools, public spaces and work environments, among others.
C – Child and adolescent abuse prevented. This includes strategies that establish nurturing family relationships.
T – Transformed attitudes, beliefs and norms. This refers to strategies that challenge harmful gender attitudes, beliefs, norms and stereotypes.

Read more…

Understanding multiple needs – Evaluation of Fulfilling Lives: Supporting people with multiple needs

This is the second in a series of briefings on multiple needs, drawing on data and insight from the National Lottery Community Fund’s Fulfilling Lives: Supporting people with multiple needs programme. Multiple needs are defined as experiencing two or more of homelessness, substance misuse, reoffending and mental ill-health. The statistics are based on data from up to 3,000 people, collected during their first three months of getting help from the Fulfilling Lives programme.

Key messages:

  • People with multiple needs are diverse and should not be seen as a uniform group
  • People’s needs are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. So, it is crucial that these issues are tackled together, holistically, and not separately
  • People’s needs and experiences change over their life course
  • Women’s needs are different from men’s, but just as complex
  • Homelessness, substance misuse, reoffending and mental ill-health are further complicated by other factors
  • Many Fulfilling Lives beneficiaries have no qualifications and problems with literacy
  • Many beneficiaries are a long way from entering the labour market when they join the programme
  • Accommodation patterns can be chaotic. Stable accommodation is a vital foundation for a fulfilling life.

Read more…

Week commencing 10 June 2019 – By Jo Barrett

Affordability problems highlighted …yet again

As reported in Housing 24, the Affordable Housing Commission has released a report that finds that nearly 5m households in England now face ‘grave’ affordability problems.  This equates to over one in five (21%) of all households and almost 40% of those in the lower half of income distribution.

According to the report, the biggest problem is in the private rented sector (PRS) with two million households facing affordability problems .  In the PRS, four out of ten of those in the bottom half of incomes are paying over 40% of their household income in rent, the report says.

Released today (June 6) the Commission’s new report, ‘Defining and measuring housing affordability – an alternative approach’, launches a new measure of ‘affordability’ looking at it in the context of household incomes and what people can afford, be it to rent or to buy, rather than the market place which focuses on market rents and house prices.

This approach is offered as an alternative to the current ‘Affordable Rent’ model, which the report claims fails to support the provision of new affordable homes.

The Commission has looked at what level of income spent on housing is likely to cause hardship and stress with the new research shows that when rents or purchase costs exceed a third (33%) of household income for those in work, it can lead to financial difficulties, arrears, debts and consequent personal problems.

And these problems become critical where housing costs are 40% or more of household income.

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Research supports more retirement communities

A survey of retirement community residents has been carried out by ProMatura International and ARCO (the Associated Retirement Community Operators).  This surveyed 2,799 residents from 81 Retirement Communities run by 15 operators.  1,111 older people who were considering a move  to a retirement community also took part.

The resulting report says retirement community residents:

  • Stay healthier for longer
  • Are more active
  • Are less lonely
  • Have a greater sense of a safety net
  • Feel more secure
  • Enjoy life more
  • Enjoy more privacy.

The report also found that:

  • 90% of residents thought they had moved into a Retirement Community at just the right time in their lives with 6% wishing they’d moved in sooner
  • 71% of residents saw moving in to a Retirement Community as a chance to make new friends
  • Retirement Community residents feel more in control of their lives.

This will be of interest to strategic housing staff who are considering ways to meet the challenges of the ageing population.

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Lack of adapted housing highlighted by Habinteg

A report by Habinteg has highlighted the fact that there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK yet just 7% of English homes currently provide even the most basic accessibility features.

The report stresses the importance of adapted homes to enable disabled and older people to live independently and to recognise and meet the needs of a diverse population.

The provision of good quality adapted homes for people with disabilities should form part of a wider strategic approach that also includes adaptations, support and wider community facilities.   However this research finds that the provision of newly built adapted homes is not being addressed through planning policies with:

  • Less than a third of the local plans analysed set out a requirement to use current accessible housing standards.
  • Less than half of all plans (138) set a specific requirement for a proportion of new homes to meet any form of accessible housing standards.
  • Less than a third (96) of all plans set requirements for a proportion of new homes to be constructed to the M4(2) or M4(3) standards
  • Less than a fifth (56) of all plans set a requirement for a proportion of new homes to be constructed to M4(3) Wheelchair user dwelling standard.
  • Of the 138 plans that set requirements in England almost a third, (42 plans) specify older standards for accessible housing.

Without the provision of new adapted homes, older and disabled people are disadvantaged so Habinteg is calling for action by Government and local authorities to address this need.

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National strategy for gypsy and traveller inequality

Government has launched a strategy to tackle entrenched inequality and improve the lives of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.  This will recognise that the health, education and housing inequalities are considerable.  There can be disproportionate levels of violence experienced by some women and girls within  Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and the Strategy will seek to tackle all of these issues.

The work is being led by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) with input from several government departments and the Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit to improve outcomes in areas including health, education and employment.

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Traveller count data

Councils count the number of caravans in their area twice a year.  The headline figure of importance to strategic housing teams is that overall, 88 per cent of traveller caravans in England were on authorised land and that 12 per cent were on unauthorised land.  Working with planning staff to assess housing needs and make provision for all groups is a key function of strategic housing.  Councils will be considering the need for additional provision as part of their Local Plans.  Other key findings are:

  • The total number of traveller caravans in England in January 2019 was 22,662. This is 284 less than the 22,946 reported in January 2018.
  • 6,590 caravans were on authorised socially rented sites. This is a decrease of 334 since the January 2018 count, which recorded 6,924.
  • The number of caravans on authorised privately funded sites was 13,261. This was 223 more than the 13,038 recorded in January 2018.
  • The number of caravans on unauthorised encampments on land owned by travellers was 2,022. This is a decrease of 157 compared to the January 2018 figure of 2,179.

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Homelessness statistics released – temporary accommodation use increasing

The latest homelessness statistics have been released.  Key findings are:

  • Between October to December 2018, 61,410 households were initially assessed as owed a prevention or relief under the new statutory homelessness duties. Down 8.3% from 66,960 households in the previous quarter.
  • 33,020 households were initially assessed as owed a prevention duty, down 11.3% from 37,230 in the previous quarter.
  • 28,400 households were initially assessed as owed a relief duty, down 4.4% from 29,720 in July to September
  • Between October and December 2018, 6,690 households were accepted as owed a main homelessness duty. This increased 4.3% from 6,410 during July to September.
  • On 31st December 2018 the number of households in temporary accommodation was 83,700, up 5.0% from 79,720 on 31st December 2017.

Read more…