Agenda and draft minutes

Housing Scrutiny Sub-Committee - Tuesday 6 July 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams

Contact: David Rose, Democratic Services  020 7926 1037, Email: drose@lambeth.gov.uk

Note: Due to exceptional circumstance this meeting will be taking place online only. If you want to watch the live broadcast you can copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://bit.ly/35YezMU. The video will remain available to view for 180 days. 

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of Pecuniary Interest

    • View the background to item 1.

    Under Standing Order 4.4, where any councillor has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (as defined in the Members’ Code of Conduct (para. 4)) in any matter to be considered at a meeting of the Council, a committee, sub-committee or joint committee, they must withdraw from the meeting room during the whole of the consideration of that matter and must not participate in any vote on that matter unless a dispensation has been obtained from the Monitoring Officer.

    Minutes:

    Councillor Paul Gadsby noted that he had signed off on the Lambeth Housing Partnership in his previous position of Cabinet Member for Housing but noted the report on the agenda was a general update and the Sub-Committee were not providing scrutiny of the original decision.

     

    There were no other declarations of interest.

     

2.

Housing Needs Update pdf icon PDF 439 KB

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    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Bayo Dosunmu: Strategic Director for Resident Services

     

    Contact for enquiries: Lee Georgiou, Assistant Director, Housing Needs, Residents Services, 07541 645368, lgeorgiou@lambeth.gov.uk

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness, Councillor Maria Kay; Lee Georgiou, Assistant Director for Housing Needs; Charlie Conyers, Head of Accommodation; Paul Davis, Head of Commissioning (Supported Housing); and Andrew Tonkin, Homeless Prevention Manager, introduced the report and noted:

    ·           Covid-19 had highlighted challenges, but Lambeth had supported 200 rough sleepers and secured a record high number of homelessness preventions across London.

    ·           500 households likely faced eviction after furlough ended, and although improvements to the Housing Needs service had been made, further progress was needed.

    ·           The report set out the main changes in housing needs and outlined replacement policies.

    ·           Demand levels had increased by 23% with an 11% increase in temporary accommodation, although the Council was abreast of casework without additional resourcing.

    ·           Social housing lets were down 17% in 2019-20 and providing services remained challenging.

     

    The Sub-Committee next heard from the Vice-Chair for St Matthew’s Residents Association, who stated:

    ·           They had been moved from an 18-year secured tenancy to secure accommodation due to the family being at risk of violence, which also required moving schools.

    ·           The restructure of housing services meant allocated officers kept changing, whilst planned meetings did not occur, and officers appeared not to read files or communicate with one another.

    ·           The Council had requested they move back to Brixton but this was not possible as the proposed two-bedroom house could not accommodate the family size and they were at risk of violence.

    ·           They had an empty Brixton property whilst there was a high demand for housing in the borough.

    ·           This had significantly affected the family’s mental health and stability.

     

    The Chair rejected a written submission from Gerlinde Gniewosz, resident, on the basis the representation was likely to encompass the Housing Regeneration Programme, which was not under the Sub-Committee’s terms of reference and would be passed to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, who had oversight of the Programme.  In discussion Councillor Pete Elliott noted that the Regeneration Programme should have been included in the Sub-Committee’s terms of reference.

     

    In response to Member’s questions, the Cabinet Member and officers stated the following:

    ·           The Rough Sleeper Initiative had seen the lowest numbers of people on Lambeth streets in 15 years.  Next steps included utilising MHCLG funding to provide a temporary night shelter for people without recourse to public funds, offering rapid improvement; and, providing a mental health outreach service with CAMHS, nurses and mentors, for vulnerable residents.

    ·           Transitory homelessness groups were largely seen only once and generally had quick resolution.

    ·           It was difficult to achieve outcomes with travelling rough sleepers, as they tended to move to other locations before solution and officers were reviewing methods to improve contact.

    ·           The entrenched rough sleeper cohort were likely to have complex and multiple needs, requiring a multi-agency and corporate approach.

    ·           Lessons learnt from the Everyone In initiative created a false picture, as the considerable numbers placed into Lambeth- or GLA- booked hotels included many who did not rough sleep and had subsequently gone back into work.  However, some previously reluctant rough sleepers had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.

3.

Lambeth Housing Partnership Programme with Registered Providers pdf icon PDF 502 KB

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    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Bayo Dosunmu: Strategic Director for Resident Services

     

    Contact for enquiries: Linda Oginni, Head of Housing Partnerships, Resident Services, 020 7926 9311, loginni@lambeth.gov.uk

     

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness, Councillor Maria Kay; Neil Euesden, Director for Housing Services; Lynette Peters, Assistant Director for Housing Strategy Performance and Partnerships; and Linda Oginni, Head of Housing Partnerships, introduced the report and stated:

    ·           The Programme was the first of its kind in London and offered cost effectiveness.

    ·           Half of Lambeth’s social homes were owned by third parties and a partnership model would allow common goals to be identified and achieved. For example, 10% of residents were on furlough and partners needed to work together for those likely to be out of work or in financial difficulties following the pandemic and the ending of furlough.

    ·           There needed to be greater on-ground focus, and shared key metrics and performance data.

    ·           The Partnership would allow best practice sharing and critical examination across partners.

    ·           There were future work streams to be identified to ensure improvements in service delivery.

     

    The Sub-Committee next heard from Stephen Kearney, Chair of St Martin’s Estate Tenants and Resident Association:

    ·           There were three housing associations on this Estate which, along with poor landlord responses, were the root causes of recurring problems.

    ·           Housing associations dealt with residents as customers, whilst the top-down culture and process- instead of a result- driven approach taken stifled initiative and demoralised staff. 

    ·           It had taken five years to fix broken lights and garage rents had been doubled without consultation.

    ·           Estate tenants were upset and had lost patience, and it would be cheaper and a better use of resource for tasks, such as repairs, to be completed correctly, on-time and to apply lessons learnt.

    ·           It was proposed that a Panel be established, formed of Association members, residents, and council officers with the power to investigate, demand answers and ensure lessons were learnt.  This would also help culture change and bring a focus more properly on residents.

    ·           Housing Associations were not positively resisting change, noting the monthly meetings and numerous good employees, but it did not appear they knew how to change.

     

    In response to Member’s questions, the Cabinet Member and officers stated the following:

    ·           Officers would suggest the idea of Resident Panels to the Partnership.

    ·           Registered Providers were not accountable to the Council and Lambeth had no direct power over them as they were separate bodies that had their own complaint and Ombudsman systems.

    ·           The Council could not insist on Partnership participation but aimed to build relationships and influence to work together to achieve improvements.

    ·           The Council was ensuring that environmental and climate change concerns were considered by the Partnership.

    ·           There had been recent improvements on St Martin’s Estate, following the Council taking enforcement action, noting that Lambeth had been the only London local authority to do this.

    ·           Lambeth was aware of poor mix-tenure estate communications but there had been improvements.

    ·           There had been greater cooperation on anti-social behaviour (ASB Forum) and live events, and lines of communications had been built and contact leads identified.

    ·           Involving and engaging with residents would be key to success.

    ·           Action on repairs needed improvement, and whilst  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Private Sector Enforcement and Regulation pdf icon PDF 531 KB

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    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Bayo Dosunmu: Strategic Director for Resident Services

     

    Contact for enquiries: Sandra Roebuck, Director of Infrastructure and Capital Delivery, 020 7926 2594, sroebuck@lambeth.gov.uk

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness, Councillor Maria Kay; Sandra Roebuck, Director of Infrastructure and Capital Delivery; Nigel Lambert, Assistant Director Public Protection Assurance and Regulatory Services; and Mark Preston – Private Sector Enforcement and Regulation Team Manager, introduced the report, noting the below:

    ·           The private rental sector was now the largest housing sector and it was important to maintain interventions, ensure regulations were met and to raise standards for residents.

    ·           Most landlords wanted to provide a good service, but many did not understand legislation, whilst there remained a small number of unscrupulous landlords who exploited vulnerable residents.

    ·           Licensing was the best tool to increase standards and ensure that suitable rooms, amenities, and equipment was provided.  Lambeth had consulted widely on additional licensing conditions, and this would ensure that all Lambeth properties were suitable for residents.

    ·           The Scheme set out improved licensing conditions, including a requirement to respond to infection outbreaks. 

    ·           Improved digital software would allow the online reporting of unlicensed Housing Management Organisations (HMOs).

    ·           As soon as the additional licensing scheme was in place, the Council would subsequently develop further proposals for additional licensing to include regulation of all privately rented properties.

    ·           Enforcement activities had increased and were seven times over their set targets and the Empty Homes Services had seen 384 homes made available in 2019-20.

    ·           Private rental standards had increased, but these proposals detailed a scaling up of activities.

     

    The Sub-Committee next heard from Ruth Jamieson, resident, who stated:

    ·           They were a leaseholder who had experienced significant issues from a neighbour’s anti-social behaviour (ASB), who the Council had stated should not have been housed nearby children.

    ·           The neighbour’s tenancy appeared to be incorrect and its type constrained the Council’s ability to act, and it was queried why a suitable tenancy was not supplied.

    ·           They had dealt with numerous council officers, requiring continually restating information, and eventually resulting in the family moving home.

    ·           This case was not just complicated by poor communications between Adult Social Care, Housing and mental health services, which had resulted in serious safeguarding issues.

     

    In response to Member’s questions, the Cabinet Member and officers stated the following:

    ·           The Director of Housing Services would contact the witness to discuss the representation.

    ·           Once tenants were in secured tenancies, the Council could only ask them to move to supported accommodation.  This had been a complex case and it had been difficult for the Council to resolve, but officers would review communications.  It was noted that correspondence between the Council and residents had to ensure data protection of third parties.

    ·           Once the current licensing consultation had been adopted, the Council would move to the next round of licensing investigation, pending Secretary of State approval.

    ·           Evidence showed that selective licensing conditions could be applied to a large proportion of the borough.

    ·           It was hoped to launch consultation in Q4, submit a Secretary of State application in Q2-3 2022 and potential launch in Q4 2022-Q1 2023. However, central Government could take time to approve, given wider priorities, and timetables  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 364 KB

    • View the background to item 5.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Interim Director of Legal and Governance: Tasnim Shawkat

     

    Contact for enquiries: David Rose, Democratic Services Officer, 020 7926 1037,  drose@lambeth.gov.uk

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Chair introduced the Sub-Committee’s Work Programme item detailing provisional items and themes for the rest of the municipal year.  In discussion, the Sub-Committee noted the following items be included as potential areas for further scrutiny:

    ·           temporary accommodation;

    ·           fire safety;

    ·           repairs;

    ·           resident engagement and effectiveness;

    ·           anti-social behaviour and resident safety;

    ·           leaseholders; and,

    ·           strategies and billing for properties on roads.

     

    In discussion arising during the meeting, it was highlighted that all future scrutiny reports needed to contain targets, benchmarking against comparable boroughs and performance data relevant to papers.

     

    RESOLVED:

    1.         That the Sub-Committee hold a Work Programming Session to develop the Work Programme, and identify and prioritise matters for future Housing scrutiny which would be reported back to the next meeting.