5 November 2015

Proposals to improve private rented sector unveiled ahead of Housing and New Homes Committee

More than 20 recommendations could be adopted to improve the city’s growing private rented sector under discussions to be heard at the Housing and New Homes Committee next week (11 November).

The recommendations follow a Scrutiny Panel investigation prompted by a request from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The Bureau reported a ‘..worrying increase in the number of people seeking advice from CAB’ in relation to the private rented sector and letting agents.

The proposals are wide ranging and including examining the impact of student housing, regulating the growth of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and targeting long-term empty homes. Others include a city-wide ‘rate-my-landlord’ scheme and new ethical models for letting agents and landlords.

Proposals to set up a living rent commission will go to the council’s new Fairness Commission while Full Council will consider a move to petition government for a rent cap.

The Census in 2011 found that the PRS stood at more than 34,000 properties representing 28% of the city’s homes. Rents have steadily increased rising by up to 6.4% in the last year alone to £874 for a 1 bed flat.

 

Proposals to close a housing scheme for senior tenants is to be discussed under a key action out of the council’s seniors housing stock review to ensure homes are fit for purpose.

Poor layout, chronic and structural damp, high staircases with no option to install lifts and other problems mean Stonehurst Court, which includes 25 studio flats, is to be decommissioned. The existing tenants will be given extensive support to help them find alternative accommodation under the recommendations.

While tenants moved out will be reimbursed financially through removal cost payment and home loss payments, the housing would be used in the short term for emergency temporary accommodation where possible to meet massive demand for housing across the city.

Councillors will decide on a range of future proposal for a former housing office which include selling the site at a provisional valuation of around £800,000 to inject back into housing or directly develop much-needed affordable homes including family homes.

The Committee will decide on commissioning a future more fully-costed report on a range of options for the future of the former Oxford Street housing office. The 3-story office is an end of terrace building leading off from the A23 which the council bought in 1995 for £283,000.

Cllr Anne Meadows, chair of the Housing and New Homes Committee, said:

“The breadth of issues covered at this committee demonstrates not only the range of challenges we face but also shows how as a council we strive to improve resident’s lives.

“Our private rented sector represents a bigger proportion of housing than many other cities and so it’s important when Citizens Advice Bureau alert us to serious issues we work hard to see what we can do to improve it.

“We take our responsibilities seriously and part of this means taking tough decisions to ensure that our older residents live in decent and accessible housing. This is the whole driver for our seniors housing scheme review because we have to ensure this housing is fit for purpose for this often vulnerable group and that is exactly what we are doing.”

The Housing & New Homes Committee will meet on 11 November at Friends Meeting House on Ship Street. Read the papers here