Agenda item

Adoption of Homes for Lambeth Assured Lifetime Tenancies

Key decision

All wards

 

Councillor Paul McGlone, Deputy Leader of the Council (Investment and Partnerships)

Sue Foster: Strategic Director for Neighbourhoods and Growth

 

Jed Young, Assistant Director Housing Regeneration, jyoung@lambeth.gov.uk

 

Minutes:

The Deputy Leader of the Council (Investment and Partnerships), Cllr Paul McGlone, introduced the report for Assured Lifetime Tenancies alongside the report for Leases and Shared Ownership Leases. He noted that:

·         The reports set out the assured lifetime tenancies and leases that HfL would use to enable the implementation of the Key Guarantees, agreed previously by Cabinet. Both reports followed a detailed consultation exercise that took place during the autumn of 2017.

·         In producing the assured lifetime tenancies, the Council had taken as a starting template the existing tenancy agreement and adapted this to address the different legislative requirements for assured tenancies and to amend certain sections to bring the existing secure tenancies up-to-date. The terms of lifetime assured tenancies were similar to the existing Lambeth secure tenancies.

·         In producing the HfL Homes leases, the Council had taken as a starting template the existing Right to Buy lease used by the council together with the standard HCA shared ownership leases and brought these together to create leases that would be appropriate for the modern properties to be built by HfL. The leases had been subject to independent legal review and consultation with homeowners, resulting in a number of changes.

·         It would be two or three years before any homeowner could sign one of the leases. It was therefore possible that statute or mortgage requirements would change and that minor changes to the leases would be required. Authority to adapt the leases would be delegated to the relevant Cabinet Member and Strategic Director.

 

The Chair, Cllr Lib Peck, invited registered speakers to make their representations to Cabinet. Mariana Nwagboso, a resident of Cressingham Gardens Estate, made the following points:

·         The consultation exercise across all the affected estates had received 55 responses, which represented just 6% and rendered the results meaningless.

·         More than one third of respondents wanted to keep their secure council lifetime tenancies, the Council should offer this to residents.

·         The Council had agreed to consider maintaining Right to Buy.

·         Elderly, vulnerable and disabled tenants had been excluded through poor consultation methods.

·         The Council should have balloted the residents of the estates.

·         The Council was only interested in making money, and those implementing the estate regeneration programme should remember they were public servants.

·         Disabled people and those living in overcrowded conditions needed to have access to adequate housing. Young people in the borough had no housing options and needed access to truly affordable housing. The proposed decision did not address these issues.

 

Andy Plant, also a resident of Cressingham Gardens, made the following observations about the HfL Assured Lifetime Tenancies report:

·         Assured Lifetime Tenancies did not have the same level of security as the current Secure Lifetime Tenancies; they were not covered by government legislation.

·         The less than 6% response rate did not provide a representative sample of the tenant resident population.

·         Officers had used the report as a vehicle for supposition.

·         The report sated the housing waiting list had grown to 23,000; this was a headline figure and should not be used. The report should instead reference the figures for priority need.

·         Lambeth’s median household income was between £26,000 and £32,000. Assuming a household contained two people earning an income of £32,000, ‘affordable’ homes for private sale would only be available to those with a six figure deposit. The new homes would only be affordable to a small band of Lambeth residents.

·         The Key Guarantees must be either guarantees or commitments.

·         Recent low levels of public engagement reflected both consultation fatigue and that some residents have experienced problems reading the booklets.

·         Case law required the Council to consult on contractual right to buy. More needed to be done on this issue.

 

The Leader of Opposition, Cllr Tim Briggs, then made the following comments:

·         The Labour Party leader leadership said residents subject to estate regeneration should be balloted and receive housing on the same terms as before; Cllr Briggs agreed. The assured lifetime tenancies was a demotion on secure lifetime tenancies which residents should not be forced to accept. The Council, through HfL, would only provide housing for a certain demographic of Lambeth residents.

·         There was no real offer of free and independent legal advice for tenants and leaseholders, which had previously been promised by Cabinet Members.

 

The Director of Strategic Programmes, Rachel Sharpe, and the Assistant Director Housing Regeneration, Jed Young, responded to the comments by providing the following information:

·         In relation to rents and service charges, houses would be provided for existing secure tenants at the equivalent of council rents. Additional homes would also be provided at London affordable rent levels in line with the Council’s tenancy strategy.

·         The consultation process had been lengthy, with events taking place on each of the estates since summer 2017. The provision for independent legal advice had stemmed from these conversations and officers had worked with residents to help select the advisors. Many of the changes to tenancies and leases requested through this process had now been included. Projects teams working on the estates also suggested that the low response to consultation partially reflected residents’ preference for the works to commence.

·         Regarding security of tenancies, it was the Council’s intention to provide contractual assured lifetime tenancies that maintained the strength of the statutory equivalents. HfL would have contractual commitments to each resident to abide by those terms. Where differences existed between the secure and assured tenancies, terms had been drafted to match the security of tenure rights enjoyed now.

 

Cabinet members then made the following contributions:

·         These decisions were about building more homes at a higher quality for the people of Lambeth; to allege that the Council wanted to make money for other means was to fundamentally misunderstand the policy. Any surpluses from HfL would go straight back into providing more affordable homes. Central Government did not allow local authorities to borrow for new homes, this was the Council’s solution.

·         The principles embodied by HfL had been in development since 2014, with a central promise that all current residents be offered the opportunity to return to their estates. Secure lifetime rents had already worked out on the newly completed Akerman Road development and were very similar to current council rents. Properties had been built to high standards and HfL would replicate this process on the other estates.

·          Free and independent legal advice was committed to within the report.

·         The Opposition Member’s comments were reprehensible given his own party’s local record on the issue of housing.

·         The lifetime assured tenancies provided contractual agreements for residents which would be protected from policy changes by future Lambeth administrations.

·         Members were confident that HfL would be able to deliver real change to the local housing problems highlighted by residents.

·         The Government was legislating towards fixed-term secure tenancies, whereas Lambeth offered assured lifetime agreements.

·         It would always be a challenging task to reproduce the rights and securities of the secure lifetime tenancies, but Members were confident this had been achieved. Officers were asked how the tenancy and lease arrangements offered in other boroughs compared to those under consideration.

 

In response to queries from Members, officers confirmed that benchmarking with other local authorities’ had taken place and Tenant Participations Advisory Service (TPAS) had also assessed the independent legal advice provided to residents. Ultimately Lambeth’s processes had emerged as some of the best in the industry. The Legal Officer also confirmed that assured tenancies mirrored the rights offered under the secure tenancies but required the tenants’ agreement to vary and were arguably more watertight as they could only be altered through legislative change or agreement with tenants, whereas secure tenancies could be amended unilaterally by the landlord following consultation with the tenants.

 

The Chair requested that all future communications with residents be written with simplistic language that could be understood by all residents. It should also include information about the independent legal advice and assessments made by TPAS.

 

It was RESOLVED:

 

1)    To approve the assured lifetime tenancy as appended to this Cabinet Report for use by HfL Homes for those tenants who will be transferring from existing secure tenancies to a new home on their estate as part of estate regeneration projects.

2)    To delegate to the Cabinet Member leading on estate regeneration and the Strategic Director for Neighbourhoods and Growth the authority to confirm the final form of the Contractual Right to Buy to be embedded in the HfL Tenancy.

 

 

 

 

Supporting documents: