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Borough Council Increases Housing Delivery Team to Tackle Housing Crisis

7 June 2022

Houses Housing

The Hub Committee on Tuesday 7 June, agreed to support the Council's delivery for A Plan for West Devon by increasing the Housing Delivery team.

To help deal with the significant pressures from the housing crisis that is causing distress for residents across the Borough, four full time staff are being recruit.

While there is no quick fix to the problem solving the crisis that has become a national issue, the dedicated resource will help to redress this issue and will make sure there is essential capacity within the team to drive forward the projects within the housing strategy.

One of these key projects is Springhill in Tavistock. Where 11 new homes are planned to be used as temporary accommodation to meet the acute need for safe homes for local people who are homeless and those with additional support needs.

A current initiative to support residents is the 'Tenants Incentive Scheme' for potential home downsizers, which offers up to £5,000 for tenants to move to a smaller home and release their property to families. This is one of the most generous incentive schemes in the country.

An Affordable Housing Planner will be recruited, to make sure the Council deals quickly with the planning process for affordable led housing schemes. Their task will be to provide a dedicated planning service to support and advise registered housing providers, landowners or developers with affordable schemes. Initially for two years, this pioneering role could be extended further.

The Council is keen to understand the areas where housing need is most acute with a solid evidence base. Within two years, they want to ensure there is an up-to-date housing needs survey for each area in West Devon that will show what the precise housing need is for each community. A new role will help the Council to get this key information. This information will target exactly what housing is needed, where it is needed, to those who need it.

Once they know that, West Devon Council are eager to provide more affordable housing locally both on their own limited sites and through local land purchases. To do this, they need a dedicated person to manage these plans. That is where the role of a Housing Development Officer comes in. They will project manage the plans, potentially working alongside a strategic delivery partner.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team will continue to work with registered providers to deliver homes that are as affordable as they possibly can be, given the high costs in the South Hams. This is in addition to providing support for those in temporary accommodation, rough sleepers and gypsy and travellers as well as delivering the core services of homeless prevention and the housing register. The Housing service is also delivering on behalf of the Council, the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Affordable housing is a definition given by Central Government and it means homes that are lower than the current 'market value' rents, as well as shared ownership, or reduced market sale properties. Homes that residents can look to repay over their lifetime.

Cllr Barry Ratcliffe, West Devon Borough Council's Lead Member for Housing, said: "Since we declared a housing crisis, we have looked at where best our resources need to go to help solve the problem and we need more staff on the ground to manage the situation. By having officers in place to manage these projects, we can organise more opportunities for homes that our residents can afford to live in. Those they can rent and buy and also to help those who are in vulnerable positions and need more specialised support from the housing team.

"We know that the crisis is difficult and is having a huge impact and finding somewhere to afford to live isn't easy and we will do everything in our power to  help.

"We'll talk to landowners and communities to continue to develop essential homes specific for each community need. So please talk to us about where these land opportunities are so we can bring housing forward for our local residents, young and old."

This is only a small element of the role that the Housing Delivery team play in a very difficult housing landscape, which is replicated across the area.

Along with the Housing Delivery Team, there is another division of the Housing Team. The Housing Advice & Homelessness Prevention Team have their own workload to carry out. They run their own lettings accommodation through SeaMoor Lettings, where they manage lettings spaces and match landlords' properties to tenants. They help those at risk of homelessness, along with supporting those who are homeless and sleeping rough.

They work to house and support vulnerable people and refugees, including those from Afghanistan and the Ukraine who need rehoming. The Housing Advice and Homelessness Prevention, who are just one arm of the diverse Housing Team, carry out these roles.

To help the housing crisis, the team have created an incentive scheme to try to help:

  • The Tenants Incentive Scheme offers a cash, pay out worth up to £5,000 if residents downsize and free up their home for a family that is struggling in cramped conditions. The scheme is open to anyone who currently rents a home that is bigger than they currently need through a housing association or social housing registered provider.        

The positions will be funded mainly from the Government's Homeless Prevention Grant with the rest coming from the Council's budget from 2023/24.

To see the full report or to view the meeting, go to: www.westdevon.gov.uk/article/7439/Watch-Council-Meetings

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