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

Are we achieving our targets?

Green – 6; Amber – 1; Red – 5; M – 3

Are we getting better?

4

Improved performance

3

Stayed the same

5

Requires improvement

3

Further information is needed or the latest measure is unavailable

Analysis and issues

The table shows that three of the key performance indicators, relating to empty homes, the delivery of affordable homes, and length of stay in temporary accommodation report as Green. Five, relating to the number of households in temporary accommodation and bed and breakfast, the length of stay in bed and breakfast, the number of homeless preventions and the number of vulnerable residents that are supported to remain in their own homes, are red at year-end.

Improvements in returning empty homes to use have resulted in the measure significantly outperforming 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 positive performance is mirrored in terms of the number of new affordable homes delivered, where 626 homes have been delivered at mid-year compared to the target of 250.

One additional measure reports as Green, length of stay in temporary accommodation, and though this measure is reporting declining performance compared to mid-year at 4.8 weeks, it however remains significantly below the target of 10 weeks or less.

Three measures relating to temporary accommodation, concerning the number of households in temporary accommodation, their length of stay, and households in B&B have not met their annual targets. 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:

  • Funding from the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government) to develop a Rapid Rehousing Pathway for rough sleepers including an assessment hub (Hamilton House) and specialist support staff (Navigators). Funding to start 2018/19 Q4 and 2019/20
  • Successful bid for Rough Sleeper Initiative funding. Funding to start 2019/20 to include two support workers for 10 housing first units and posts specialising in mental health and drug and alcohol addictions to support the outreach team.
  • 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 and processes used within the service to deliver enhanced outcomes.

Furthermore, performance on the number of vulnerable residents supported to remain in their own homes is Red. An action plan is available in Appendix Four, key actions underway to improve performance include:

  • Increasing the number of referrals for Disabled Facilities Grant. The Occupational Therapy Team have recruited additional staff resource which will help reduce the assessment waiting list and increase the number of referrals for Disabled Facilities Grant.
  • Partnership working. Key members of staff in the Contracts, Strategic Housing, and Occupational Therapy Teams have regular meetings with Torus to discuss progress and ways of improving programme delivery. A Service Improvement Plan is currently being drawn up by Torus focussing on contractor capacity, improving processes, setting targets and reducing timescales for completion of works and submission of paperwork.
  • Performance Monitoring. Programme delivery and performance is monitored closely via monthly budget, programme monitoring reports and contract key performance indicators.

Wider Performance Indicators

Across the wider performance measures, performance has been declined slightly around the number of homeless acceptance cases, however the year-end target of 90 has been achieved.

Actions

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

  • 450 landlords and agents were sent the January-March edition of the Landlord Newsletter. This edition included features on: Extension of Mandatory multi-occupancy housing Licensing, Discounted energy efficiency measures, Latest news and key legislative changes. 329 landlords have now signed up to the Private Landlord Service which provides advice and support to landlords.
  • 11 landlords attended Energy Efficiency Workshop run by Energy Projects Plus 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 has been completed and was approved by Cabinet in October 2018. The implementation of the Strategy will be taken forward in partnership with ForHousing.
  • Communications relating to a campaign on Better Renting have been issued, in the form of two press releases on reporting repairs and issuing Section 21 notices.
  • In regards to the Housing Lease Scheme, Housing Investment Model and HRA new build for development on council land – a development agreement has been completed for a Joint Venture Land Lease Scheme at Handley Hill, Winsford, Rivacre, Ellesmere Port and former Acorns School, Ellesmere Port incorporating the Accelerated Construction funding award from Homes England. Final detailed layouts have been drawn up in preparation planning permission submission in 2019/20. In relation to the Housing revenue account new builds, at Woodford Lodge – all sales are complete on the 20 shared ownership properties. 96 out of the 130 rented units have been handed over, with the remainder due by July 2019. At the Greyhound development, there have been snagging delays to final completions with 28 rented homes handed over to date, all 45 are forecast to be complete by April 19. Sherbourne Road (16 units), Stoak Gardens (6 units), St Andrews Road (3 units) and Malvern Avenue (5 units) schemes are all complete. The final 25 properties at Whitby Road and Romney Close are progressing well and due to complete May 19 and November 19 respectively. Due Diligence has been completed for the Housing Investment Model. Master planning is underway on all 3 Accelerated Construction funded sites (Verdin, LAPA and Wharton Green). A development agreement has been issued to Engie for Wharton Green.
  • Relating to local regeneration and housing need projects – Housing needs surveys for potential Community Led Housing schemes at Tarporley and Saughall are progressing. Due diligence schemes have been completed with Homes England on viability of a Housing Investment Fund bid for Westminster Rail Bridge, Ellesmere Port to release 233 new homes.
  • The Home Assistance policies have been reviewed to ensure resources are better targeted to improve the quality of private rented sector accommodation, and are available on the council website.
  • The new homeless support service delivered by Forfutures provides outreach services for rough sleepers and direct access emergency accommodation. A new model of ‘pop up’ severe weather emergency protocol provision using churches and other council buildings was launched last November. Since November 81 individuals have used the new provision. In total 477 overnight placements were made up to 14 February which included the ‘pop up’ shelters, emergency spaces in direct access and bed and breakfast. The cost of bed and breakfast placements during severe weather has significantly reduced since the new model was introduced.
  • The Council were awarded a government grant to develop a rapid rehousing pathway for rough sleepers. This included funding for three Navigator posts and an assessment hub at Hamilton House.
  • The Council have been awarded additional funding for 2019/20 to employ a specialist mental health and substance workers as well as Housing First support workers to help sustain independent accommodation.

The sole action which has slipped relates to the implementation of eligibility criteria and new monitoring arrangements for self-build register and the identification of suitable sites for Custom & Self-build Act duties. Work ongoing to implement eligibility criteria and monitoring arrangements, and there is the potential for plots on Council land to be allocated in the Housing Delivery Plan.

Next Reporting Period

The following are examples of tasks and milestones expected to be completed in 2019-2020:

  • The delivery of an assessment Hub at Hamilton House alongside embedding navigators to ensure that homeless households receive the support they need particularly those with multiple and complex needs.
  • Implementation of the recommendations of the Scrutiny Review on care leavers to ensure suitable accommodation is available for young people in care.