To consider and decide on the recommendations as set out in the associated report.
1. That the Council’s participation in the Local Authority Housing Fund be approved.
2. That the release of up to £3.2m in S106 commuted sums be used for the purpose of providing affordable housing in the Borough, as the Council’s capital contribution to deliver 15 properties in line with the Local Authority Housing Fund’s objectives be approved.
3. That delegated authority be given to the Head of Housing, Health and Environment to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) be approved.
4. That delegated authority be given to the Head of Housing, Health and Environment, consultation with the Director of Finance, Policy and Development, the Director of Change and Communities, the Head of Mid Kent Legal Services, and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Planning, to negotiate and enter into any legal documents, contracts or partnership agreements to acquire and deliver the 15 properties be approved.
REASON FOR DECISION:
To enable the Council to deliver 15 units of affordable housing, initially to mitigate against increased housing and homelessness pressures arising from Ukrainian and Afghan nationals, and to also support the ongoing housing and homelessness needs of residents within the Tunbridge Wells Borough.
CALL-IN AND URGENCY
In accordance with the provisions Of Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 14 in Part 4 of the Constitution, the Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny gave prior agreement that this decision was urgent and would not be subject to call-in as delay would seriously prejudice the Council’s or the public’s interest.
Councillor Hugo Pound, Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning introduced the report and provided some background as to the reasons for the urgency which included the following:
- The deadline date for submitting the Memorandum of Understanding to Government was 15 March 2023. Given this deadline, agreement by the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny to waive call-in was very much appreciated.
- The issue had been taken to the Housing Advisory Panel, the Communities and Economic Development Cabinet Advisory Board and Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
- Government were offering the Council the opportunity to purchase 15 properties of which they would make a contribution of 40% towards the cost of 14 properties and 50% towards the cost of one larger (4 bedroom) property.
- In addition, Government would provide £20k per property to cover the cost of any refit that might be required to make the property suitable for the tenant.
- TWBC would pay the remaining 60% which would be funded from S106 money that had been collected from developers over the years for the provision of affordable housing.
- TWBC would use up to £3.2m of developer contributions to fund the scheme.
- A number of issues were raised at the various Committees the report had been taken to prior to Cabinet which included the following:
o TWBC would aspire to ensuring the properties complied to more than the minimum of the EPC standard.
o TWBC would seek properties that already had alternative energy sources.
o All properties will be purchased within the Borough.
o Most properties would be 2 or 3 bedroom family houses. And one 4 bedroom home (as required by the Government).
o If TWBC were unable to purchase all 15 properties within the prescribed timescale, some of the funding (proportionate) would have to be returned to Government.
o The location of the properties would take into account local amenities, schools and the social networking opportunities of the families who would live there.
o TWBC should seek to purchase freehold properties, not leasehold properties.
Discussion and questions from Members included the following:
- The process of allocating properties had yet to be finalised, but a set of criteria would be developed that would take account of circumstances such as location and size of property and other appropriate relevant factors.
- Once a property had been allocated, the rent would be set at social level rents.
- The length of tenure had yet to be defined but the current view was that both Ukrainian and Afghan families would want to aspire to having their own accommodation and be supported by a community of their own choosing.
- It was therefore expected that particularly for the Ukrainian families their tenure would not be very long. It was less clear at this stage on the possible length of stay for the Afghan families.
- Guidance would be sought from Government on the process for returning the properties for use within the Borough.
- The decision to be taken ... view the full minutes text for item 131