Good quality and affordable housing that meets the needs of our diverse communities

Are we achieving our targets?

Green – 7; Amber – 1; Red – 6; M – 1

Are we getting better?

5

Improved performance

3

Stayed the same

6

Requires improvement

1

Further information is needed or the latest measure is unavailable

Analysis and issues

The table shows that two of the key performance indicators, relating to empty homes and the delivery of affordable homes report as Green with improving performance.

Improvements in returning empty homes to use have resulted in the measure being on track to significantly outperform the full-year target at mid-year. The Empty Homes Team has processed a back log of questionnaires which has resulted in an increase in the reported numbers of properties being brought back into use. This is mirrored in terms of the number of new affordable homes delivered, where 361 homes have been delivered at mid-year compared to the full year target of 250.

Two further measures report as Green, length of stay in temporary accommodation, and length of stay in B&B accommodation, though these measures are reporting maintained and declining performance respectively. Three measures, households in temporary accommodation, households in B&B and the number of vulnerable residents able to remain in their own homes are not on track to meet their annual targets at Quarter Two, and have seen declining performance. Another measure, the number of homeless preventions is Red and reporting declining performance. This is linked to changes to guidance on the definition of homelessness prevention, and changes to the criteria for data to be collected. From April, only cases dealt with by the Housing Options Team can now be included in the prevention figure, whereas previously work done by other teams within the LA or commissioned by the LA would also be included. For example, the award of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) by the Council’s Housing Benefit service can prevent rent arrears and homelessness, however these awards are no longer included in the new Homelessness Prevention figures even though the service continues to prevent homelessness.

There has been a significant and long-term trend of increasing demand on temporary accommodation. National data states that “On 31 March 2018 the number of households in temporary accommodation was 79,880, up 3% from 77,220 on 31 March 2017, and up 66% on the low of 48,010 on 31 December 2010”.

The Homelessness Reduction Act was introduced in April 2018. This was a significant change to the legislation and placed additional legal responsibilities on the Council. The new legislation increased the definition of ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 to 56 days and placed a new duty on councils to proactively work with households threatened with homelessness. In line with national trends the number of households presenting as homeless to the council remains high as does the demand for affordable housing generally.

The service is also seeing an increase in the number of customers with high support needs. The options available to prevent homelessness can be limited for some customers due to affordability and supply and demand factors, in particular a shortage of one bedroom flats in the social and private sector. In addition factors such as a history of anti-social behaviour, rent arrears or a need for specific requirements in terms of location or property type reduce the housing options further. When homelessness can’t be prevented a homeless application is opened and temporary accommodation may be required. Move-on from supported accommodation can also be difficult for some customers for the reasons stated above. This can result in a shortage of available beds which also increases pressure on the statutory service.

In order to address these factors, a comprehensive action plan is in place, including the following examples:

  • A new support contract started in April 2018. The service has been aligned to the new Homelessness Reduction Act with an increased focus on homelessness prevention and closer working with the Council’s statutory service. Service developments will start to be implemented from April 2019. There is also a performance management framework to improve throughput within the contract.
  • The support service includes a range of accommodation options which will be developed and increased.
  • West Cheshire Homes has been reviewed due to the Homelessness Reduction Act. Work is currently ongoing to improve the ICT, change and increase the staffing structure and establish pathways for vulnerable groups.
  • A review of current temporary accommodation provision and future requirements has been completed.
  • The annual review of the Homelessness Strategy and action plan has been completed.

Furthermore, performance on the number of vulnerable residents able to remain in their own homes is Red. An action plan is available in Appendix Four, and it should be noted that applications for support increase during Autumn and Winter months, and that this indicator has reported at Red at Q2 and achieved its target by year-end for the last two years.

Wider Performance Indicators

Across the wider performance measures, significantly, performance has been maintained around the number of homeless acceptance cases, with the mid-year figure meaning Cheshire West is on course to achieve the annual target of 90 and so this indicator is reporting as Green at this stage. The number of people sleeping rough on a given night is significantly over-target, at 31 against a target of 5. There is more detail on the steps taken to address this in Appendix Four, which outlines a summary of the Council’s plan to end rough sleeping. The number of new homes delivered is an area of very high performance, with 2,542 homes delivered (Q4 2017/18 figure), against the full-year target of 1,100.

Actions

At mid-year, key highlights of progress around the actions that have been delivered or have been initiated and remain on target include:

  • A significant amount of affordable housing has been delivered with 167 units completed during Q2, giving a half year total of 361 units.
  • 450 landlords and agents were sent the July-September edition of the Landlord Newsletter. This edition included features on: empty homes, latest news and information, and 24 landlords attended a Safe Homes Workshop. Furthermore, 290 Landlords have now signed up to the Private Landlord Service which provides advice and support to landlords who house people on the Council`s housing waiting list.
  • Relating to local regeneration and housing need projects – two gateway sites in Chester and three potential rural community housing opportunities have been identified.
  • Significant progress has been made on the development of the vision and asset management strategy for the Council’s Housing Stock.
  • The new homeless support service delivered by Forfutures provides outreach services for rough sleepers and direct access emergency accommodation. The Council are currently working with Forfutures and the voluntary sector to review the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) looking at new options for winter 2018/19 to avoid the use of B&B. The homeless support contract has been in place since 1 April 2018 and the new service is delivered by Forfutures. Support is provided to homeless households through floating support, supported housing, direct access emergency accommodation and outreach support in the community for rough sleepers.
  • The Outreach service has been reviewed and restructured and an audit of supported housing carried out.
  • 400 landlords were contacted regarding the Government’s extension of mandatory house of multiple occupancy licensing legislation and the need for them to get a house of multiple occupancy license in place by the beginning of October 2018. A press release featuring the successful conviction of a Northwich based landlord who was fined £2,495 for failure to comply with an improvement notice was sent to the media in September.
  • The Cheshire and Warrington Traveller Team now carry out a service for Warrington Borough Council and are negotiating with Cheshire East to deliver a service. This will ensure a fair and consistent approach to unauthorised encampments and to support services.
  • Work has commenced on daughter documents to the new strategic economic plan, launched in Q2. A registered providers and Cheshire West and Chester Council workshop was held in March with Local Enterprise Partnership appointed consultants who are developing the Sub Regional Housing Strategy due in April 2018. In September 2018 work has commenced on developing the Local Enterprise Partnership’s Digital Strategy.

The sole action which has slipped relates to updating the housing need evidence base. The bid submitted to the local government association to fund new housing needs research was unsuccessful. The Council are investigating other funding opportunities. Furthermore, the Insight and Intelligence team are supporting Housing to draw all data together in preparation for the Local Plan Part 1 review in 2020.

Items which are due to be delivered in the next reporting period include:

  • The implementation of eligibility criteria and new monitoring arrangements for self-build register; identify suitable sites for Custom and Self Build Act duties
  • The development and implementation of an Asset Management Strategy for the Council’s housing stock to ensure it is fit for purpose, meets housing need and is sustainable.
  • Further embedding the support and accommodation contract to ensure that homeless households receive the support and accommodation they need, particularly those with multiple and complex needs.