Issue - decisions

Improving the Key Guarantees

29/03/2017 - Improving the Key Guarantees

The Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Matthew Bennett, introduced the report and provided an update on the estate regeneration programme. The council had consulted extensively with tenants and homeowners over the past two years and developed the proposed Key Guarantees. The draft offer had been reviewed by the Tenant Participatory Advisory Service (TPAS) and further changes had been made in line with their recommendations and consultation responses. Councillor Bennett apologised for any confusion caused by the presentation of the Key Guarantees.

 

Councillor Bennett proposed to amend Recommendation 4 to provide additional reassurance to residents. The revised recommendation should read:

 

4. To delegate, to the Cabinet Member for Housing and the Strategic Director for Neighbourhoods and Growth, the authority to adapt the mechanisms of the Key Guarantees to residents where required to do so by changes to government legislation or regulation. Any substantive change to the Key Guarantees will require a further Cabinet decision, subject to consultation.

 

Councillor Bennett provided a summary of the revised Key Guarantees as set out in the report. A booklet containing the revised Key Guarantees would be produced by officers and distributed to residents by no later than May 2017. Councillor Bennett proposed to amend Recommendation 3 to reflect this commitment:

 

3. To require officers to produce revised Key Guarantee booklets for tenants and homeowners, embedding the proposed changes to the Key Guarantee mechanisms as set out in Appendix B. The booklets were to be produced and reissued no later than May 2017.

 

The Chair, Councillor Lib Peck, invited registered to speakers to address the committee.

 

Mr Shemi Leira (Chair of Westbury Estate TRA, Acting Chair of Leaseholders’ Council and Chair of the Clapham Leaseholders Association), Ms Gerlinde Gniewosz (member of Leaseholders’ Council and Cressingham Gardens Residents Association) and Ms Petra Abbam (resident of Westbury Estate) addressed the committee and raised the following points:

 

·         Mr Leira said that he spoke as the Acting Chair of Leaseholders’ Council following the resignation of the previous Chair who had stepped down citing allegations of bullying and harassment by specific councillors and officers.

 

The Chair halted the representation and sought clarification on this matter. The Head of Legal Services and council Monitoring Officer, Alison McKane, said that the allegations had been investigated and no evidence of bullying or intimidation had been found. Her investigation had therefore been concluded. Public representations then continued:

 

·         Residents had informed the council of human rights violations resulting from the estate demolition programme. The Secretary of State and the high court had recently confirmed these concerns when blocking an estate demolition programme in Southwark. The Secretary of State had highlighted the detrimental impact on elderly, disabled and vulnerable residents, as well as the disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and minority residents. The Southwark programme was very similar to the programme being pursued by Lambeth.

·         There was nothing in the proposed Key Guarantees to address economic, social and environmental issues. Nor was there any recognition of the disproportionate impact of on people belonging to ethnic minorities. Mr Leira had previously raised these concerns with officers.

·         Concerns were raised about the governance of Homes for Lambeth, given that the Cabinet Member for Housing would reside as Chairman. This would represent a conflict of interest.

·         It was misleading to state that Homes for Lambeth would be 100 per cent owned by Lambeth Council. Questions also remained over the controls and financial supervision of the organisation.

·         According to the Runnymede Report, Lambeth had the highest levels of social and ethnic inequality. The proposed programme of demolition would exacerbate this problem.

·         As a result of the programme, a large section of Lambeth residents would be displaced and disenfranchised by incompetent and self-interested developers. 

·         Recommendation 4 remained inadequate despite the proposed amendment. It was unclear what exactly constituted a ‘substantive’ change to the Key Guarantees. The definition used for ‘substantive’ should be: relative to the impact on the residents.

·         The Key Guarantees did not apply to all residents; private renters for example would receive no protection.

·         The proposed Key Guarantees were significantly worse than those approved by Cabinet in 2015. Many of the original proposals were no longer guaranteed; some had become mechanisms and were subject to change, others had been weakened and some were no longer offered at all.

·         The options under offer were unaffordable to the majority of residents and some residents would be made homeless as a result. 

·         The revised Key Guarantees discriminated against those without families or spouses that had live with them for less than one year.

·         The Key Guaranteed had been worsened following each consultation and did not represent the offer residents wanted.

 

The Chair then invited the remaining registered speakers to make their representations. Mr Andy Plant, Ms Mariana Nwagboso and Ms Anne Cooper were each residents of estates effected by the regeneration programme. They raised the following concerns:

 

·         The Key Guarantees did not offer a choice to residents, instead they amounted to coercion. Residents were being forced to accept a reduction in tenants’ rights or move away from the estate.

·         Key Guarantee 2 (for Tenants) stated that each newly built home would be designed to meet the resident’s disability needs, however there was no explanation of how this would be funded.

·         The Key Guarantees were loosely worded and the mechanisms were flexible. Consequently they could be easily manipulated by officers.

·         The report suggested a further consultation with residents on a contractual Right to Buy, but there was no indication of when this would be scheduled.

·         The report suggested the Key Guarantees would help to reduce uncertainty and stress for residents. This was not the case.

·         Tenants were being forced to move estates and lose their secured tenancies. The alternative assured lifetime tenancies were not favoured by tenants and came with no right to manage or Right to Buy.

·         Instead of building new social housing, the majority of new homes would be for market rent or sold for private income. The Key Guarantees would serve to bring about the end of council estates in Lambeth. 

·         There were many vulnerable and disabled people on the estates that would be greatly impacted by the regeneration programme. The Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) was out of date and the Key Guarantees failed to acknowledge the needs of vulnerable residents.

·         Council tenants were being subjected to undue levels of emotional distress as a result of the regeneration programme. It was unclear whether the provisions made in Key Guarantee 5 (for Tenants) also covered people with mental health needs.

·         The Key Guarantees did not address the high levels of uncertainty people were experiencing. It was important that the council’s Head of Wellbeing worked more closely with the Regeneration team.

·         A document should be produced to provide information about the symptoms of anxiety and inform residents about the mental health services available in the borough. Should the council fail to do this, residents would act to distribute the information.

 

Following the representations, the Chair invited officers to respond to issues raised. The Estate Regeneration Programme Manager, Julian Hart, Assistant Director of Housing Regeneration, Neil Vokes, and Director of Strategic Housing, Regeneration and Communities, Rachel Sharpe, provided the following information.

 

·         In relation to the decision by the Secretary of State not to confirm the Aylesbury CPO in September 2016, officers were confident that the situation in Lambeth was very different to that of Southwark. Officers had reviewed the ruling and assessed that the Key Guarantees offered more to residents. The proposed Key Guarantees had been independently benchmarked against offers from other councils and all legal obligations had been met.

·         The Key Guarantees set out a clear process for equalities. Officers would continuously collect information about resident’s circumstances the EIA would be repeated at key stages throughout the regeneration process.

·         The proposed Key Guarantees were an improvement on those previously put forward, and subject to their approval, officers would reissue the revised booklets to residents no later than May 2017.

·         Residents would not be expected to pay for adaptations to properties required by their disabilities.

·         Officers were aware of vulnerable people on the estate and the effect the regeneration could be having on their mental health. Officers would produce some written material on mental health services and distribute this to residents.

 

Officers then provided the following information in response to questions from members of Cabinet:

 

·         In light of the points raised by the Secretary of State, a full review had been undertaken including independent benchmarking. Officers were confident that the offer from Lambeth was significantly stronger than those previously offered by Southwark.

·         Since 2015 the council had consulted with residents in a variety of ways. Initial discussions were held with Tenants’ Council and Leaseholders’ Council, the results of which fed into the initial Key Guarantees which were adopted by Cabinet in July 2015. Responses were collected from residents and a revised set of Key Guarantees was produced in summer 2016. Subsequent responses were collected in autumn 2016 during a formal consultation which fed into the final set of Key Guarantees. Aside from these processes, officers had also been engaged in a range of events and drop-in sessions with residents.

·         Key improvements had been made to offers regarding the porting of mortgages. Option B would offer current homeowners the opportunity to of a zero rent shared ownership and should this not be possible, Option C would allow shared ownership with rent. In cases where homeownership was no longer possible, the council would explore other alternatives, including a rented home on the rebuilt estate.

·         Residents would be involved in the general design of the redeveloped estates.

 

The Chair asked Councillor Matthew Bennett to confirm the recommended amendments before putting the recommendations to the vote.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    To approve the Key Guarantees for Tenants (the principles).

2.    To approve the Key Guarantees for Homeowners (the principles).

3.    To require officers to produce revised Key Guarantee booklets for tenants and homeowners, embedding the proposed changes to the Key Guarantee mechanisms as set out in Appendix B. The booklets were to be produced and reissued by no later than May 2017.

4.    To delegate, to the Cabinet Member for Housing and the Strategic Director for Neighbourhoods and Growth, the authority to adapt the mechanisms of the Key Guarantees to residents where required to do so by changes to government legislation or regulation. Any substantive change to the Key Guarantees will require a further Cabinet decision, subject to consultation.