Report by Service Lead – Affordable Housing (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Service Lead – Affordable Housing and the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (circulated previously) regarding Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF).
The Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive highlighted the following:
· The Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities launched a new £500m Local Authority Housing Fund in December 2022.
· Of this fund North Devon Council had been allocated £1,001,081 of capital grant funding to provide settled and sustainable housing for those unable to secure their own accommodation who were under the Ukraine and Afghan Schemes.
· A Memorandum of Understanding had to be signed by mid-March 2023.
· The funding would provide 9 additional units of temporary accommodation, available for meeting the refugee need that arose and also reducing the cost of temporary accommodation provision.
· Officers had put forward three options:
Ø Option 1: The purchase of 3 open market units (2 x 2 or 3 bedroom homes and 1 x 4 bed home) and the construction of 6 modular units.
Ø Option 2: If the modular build element in option 1 could not be delivered in time, the purchase of 9 units on the open market.
Ø Option 3: If options 1 or 2 could not be delivered, delivery through a Registered Provider. Officers had spoken with Registered Providers in the North Devon area and many were interested in this fund, some via possible stock sale enquiries from developers.
· Following further research into the 3 options; Officers were proposing Option 2 – the purchase of 9 units on the open market as the most viable option at this time.
· With option 1 having been discounted due to time scales meaning it would miss the deadline to spend the funds, November 2023.
· The resource implications were detailed in section 5 of the report.
· Going forwards the Council was intending to establish alternative housing delivery models. This would allow the Council to potentially switch a property from temporary accommodation to settled accommodation (a licence to an Assured Shorthold Tenancy) without the tenant being displaced. The Council had already used this model in an initiative to help care leavers, with positive results.
· The Council would need to gap-fund 60% of the capital required amounting to around £1,230,000. A separate report on increasing the capital acquisition of temporary accommodation with a request to vary the Council’s capital programme by a further £2m had been approved at Full Council on 22 February 2023. Therefore, pending option 1 and/or option 3, as mentioned above and set out at paragraphs 4.5.1 – 4.5.3 in the report being delivered; the capital programme funding already approved for temporary accommodation can be used as the element of match funding from the Council towards delivery of the Local Authority Housing Fund.
In response to questions, the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive gave the following replies:
· If the Council did not accept this grant, the impact on the Council to provide temporary accommodation housing would be greater. A larger Council-owned housing stock for temporary accommodation meant the Council could reduce the use of more expensive alternatives to temporary housing such as B&B accommodation.
· The demand was greater than previously requested so Members could decide to buy up to four more additional units.
(a) the use of the allocated Local Authority Housing Fund of £1,001,081 alongside 60% of capital match-funding from the Council as detailed in section 5 of this report be approved; and
(b) Council vary the Capital Programme by £1,001,081 as detailed in paragraph 1.1 of the report, and that funds be released, subject to a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed by the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive and the Senior Solicitor and Monitoring Officer.