To consider and provide a recommendation to Cabinet on the proposals set out in the attached report.
Jane Fineman, Head of Finance, Procurement and Parking introduced the report set out in the agenda.
Since the publication of the agenda, the Committee were asked to take into account some additional information, including approval of 3 additional recommendations to Cabinet.
- Since the report was prepared, the Council had been offered the opportunity to bid for some additional funding from the Homes for Ukraine Grant held by KCC and the European Housing Fund applied for by KCC, upon which they were still awaiting approval. If the Council was successful, Cabinet would need to approve certain decisions in order to spend the money swiftly, and urgent progression was a condition of the grant.
- The Council would like to bid for £1.403m funding for our proportion of the Local Authorities Housing Fund Scheme to deliver 15 affordable homes in Tunbridge Wells. If successful, then we would no longer need to use our own S106 developer funding and it could be repurposed.
- The Council would also like to bid for £850,000 to refurbish the 4 properties in Crescent Road into 3 or 4 bedroom homes, which could initially be shared by Ukrainian families, but subsequently brought into the Council’s housing stock. If successful, the Council would ask for approval to go ahead and refurbish the properties. It had been discussed whether it would be better to divide these properties into smaller units, but as there were already 3 properties in smaller units in the parade, the variety was felt to be more appropriate. The Council also had a shortage of this property size and it would be cheaper, and importantly much quicker, to deliver than smaller units.
- Thirdly, the Council would like to bid for £800,000 to purchase a 4/5 bed property, which again, 2 Ukrainian families would share. Again, this would be brought back into the Councils housing stock once no longer needed by Ukrainian guests. Affordable larger homes were in very short supply in the Borough and housing were recommending that this was the main area of housing shortage they experienced. If successful the Council would like approval to move to purchase a property.
- Subject to agreement by the Committee, 3 recommendations would be added to the report that would be put forward to Cabinet as follows:
o That if granted £1.403m KCC funding for the Council’s proportion of the Local Authorities Housing Fund Scheme to deliver 15 affordable homes in Tunbridge Wells, Finance and Governance recommends that the grant money be spent on the scheme and that the allocated S106 money should be repurposed.
o That if KCC grants £850,000 to refurbish the 4 Crescent Road properties into 3 or 4 bedroom houses, Finance and Governance recommends to Cabinet that the grant should be spent as such and the refurbishment should be completed.
o That if KCC grants £800,000 to purchase a 4 or 5 bedroomed house in the Borough, Finance and Governance recommends to Cabinet that the grant should be spent as such and a property purchase should be undertaken.
Discussion and questions from Members included the following:
- The report was forward looking with capital expenditure being rolled forward to the new financial year. This was different to the Revenue report which was historic.
- The report provided details of available s106 developer contributions, with £948,000 as having been approved. The additional £1.403m identified as part of the Local Authority Housing Fund Scheme now needed to be approved by the Committee and Cabinet in order for it to be included into the Capital Programme.
- The Local Authority Housing Scheme report went to Cabinet on 14 March 2023. Cabinet approved the recommendations included in the report. Those recommendations included the provision of £1.403m of S106 developer contributions to be used as the Council’s contribution to the scheme.
- The Capital Report recognised that an approval had been given and the money now needed to be drawn into the Capital Plan. The money would show on the next quarterly report.
- The amount of money required for this project would be dependent on how successful the Council was in securing the funding from KCC. If successful, the Council would not need to spend any S106 money on this scheme.
- Since approval on 14 March 2023, Town and Country had agreed to contribute to this project. The amount agreed in the report was therefore no longer correct.
- Cinder Hill was a gypsy and traveller site. The Council had a policy to provide 33 additional pitches (similar to housing supply) until 2038 . Cinder Hill was identified as being a suitable for 2 to 3 pitches.
- Those using the site would be treated the same as any tenant on Council property.
- Paragraph 4.15 refers to affordable housing rather than social housing. The term affordable housing was the term used in the report approved by Cabinet.
- There was no conflict between the Local Authority Housing Fund Grant and the new grants that the Council were now seeking agreement for. Rather a synergy that would benefit both Ukrainian families and Afghan families.
- It was unlikely that Government would seek to reclaim the money given to KCC for the Ukrainian Fund. That said, KCC were very keen to see the funding spent as quickly as possible to avoid any ‘opportunity’ for the Government to ask for it back.
- The Council had undertaken some work on the level of funding KCC had available. At present KCC had about £9m that had yet to be allocated. In addition there was £3.9m available from the European Housing Fund. So the total funding still available was nearly £14m.
- If the money was allocated equitably across all the districts, each district would receive about £1m.
- If the Council received this amount, it would cover the funds required for the Local Authority Housing Scheme.
- Not all the districts put in applications for the Local Authority Housing Fund, so it was likely that not all districts would be applying for this money.
- The Council were therefore putting in speculative bids based on their being additional funding available.
- It was noted that this was not a decision making Committee so it was possible to consider the new information and proposed additional recommendations.
- In addition to capital spending on housing, other projects included maintenance projects, decarbonisation and climate emergency projects. The Council continued to look at possible opportunities but it was dependent on the level of resources available.
- Money not used could be rolled over and this would be approved by Cabinet.
- The Council had done an extraordinary job looking after refugees and this scheme continues this work.
- The length of any tenancy and the future use of these properties (i.e. when they might be returned to the Council for social housing) was outside the scope of this report. The report was confined to grants being awarded to house refugees.
- It was agreed to include the word ‘swiftly’ in all three of the additional recommendations to better ensure that the funding would not be reclaimed.
RESOLVED – That the recommendations to Cabinet as set out in the report and in the additional information be supported