At this point Councillor Peach arrived and acted as a Member of the Committee and Councillor Arculus left.
The Housing Needs Manager introduced the report to the Committee which provided an update on the work of the Housing Needs Service over the last twelve months, and presented the draft Homelessness Review and Strategy.
The Committee were asked to:
· Note and comment on the activity of the Housing Needs Service over the last year
· Review and comment on the information contained within the Homelessness Review
· Comment and agree on the broad strategic aims of the draft Homelessness Strategy and agree for the review and strategy to be taken forward to Cabinet.
Observations and questions were raised around the following areas:
· Members queried what action was taken to assure people who were homeless that the accommodation they were offered would be up to a reasonable standard. The Head of Housing and Health Improvement informed Members that the Council carried out regular inspections to check that properties were up to standard before placing people in to them. The Housing Enforcement team was currently taking action against three landlords for bad conduct.
· Members queried what impact the closure of Peterborough Streets had on the city. The Housing Needs Manager advised Members that the closure of Peterborough Streets was a great loss to the Council who were currently in discussions with Crisis to try to continue the work previously carried out. The difficulty was that homeless individuals were reluctant to communicate with the local authority. Other voluntary sector partners had also been involved to try and pick up from Peterborough Streets. Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services (PCVS), had agreed to become a Big Issue distribution point.
· Members Commented that not having Peterborough Streets was concerning for the coming winter months. Members were informed that Peterborough Streets did not provide accommodation, the task was contracted to a church. There was still a cold weather provision in place.
· Members queried what effect immigration had on housing in Peterborough. Members were advised that four years ago 70% of European Nationals were sleeping rough. Work had been carried out to tackle the issue. Good relations had been built with the Uk Border Agency (UKBA) and consulates to support individuals to get back home, if they refused to return home then the UKBA would send them back home. The work continued and there were less European National rough sleepers in the city. The demand on the housing register showed the percentage comparable to the latest Census data showed that 70 percent of people on the housing register were white British. Immigration had made a slight impact.
· Members queried if under the Disabled Facilities Grant, disabled people could have an extra room for people staying with them short term. Members were informed that this was not possible as the grant would always be available to adapt the existing property of the disabled person. There was only provision available on the basis of permanent need.
· Members were very concerned that on page 75 of the report it stated that Mental Health Services were unable to access rough sleepers. The Head of Housing and Health Improvement informed the Committee that there had been historical issues with this area, it needed to be addressed and it was currently being investigated.
· Members were concerned that Peterborough was losing valuable services such as Peterborough Streets.
· Members queried how the Council worked with social landlords to identify the need for housing and how the Council ensured enough houses were being built. Members were advised that this fell within the planning department, who would request to know what types of accommodation was needed. It was going to take a considerable amount of time to accommodate all applicants on the housing register.
· Members referred to page 62 of the report and queried whether Cross Keys had achieved their aims stated in part 3.2.3 of the report. The Head of Housing and Health Improvement advised the Committee that Cross Keys had completed the Decent Homes Programme one year before schedule.
· Members queried whether number of new housing units built had improved. Members were informed that this sat with the Director of Growth and Regeneration. The number of affordable housing built this year would significantly rely upon funding the Housing Associations could obtain through the Homes and Community Agency (HCA). 350 accommodation units had been built this year which was an improvement.
· Members commented that there was an extremely high demand on two bedroom properties, due to the changes in the benefits system and queried whether there had been any consideration on building more two bedroom properties. The Housing Needs Manager advised the Committee that if the Planning Department came and asked advice on what type of units were to be built, they would be advised of the need for one and two bedroomed property.
· Members requested information on the new Vista flats and what type of units these were going to be. Members were informed that this was going to be a mixed development of affordable, sale and rented properties.
The Committee noted the report.