Issue - meetings

Issue - meetings

Under-occupation in the Council’s housing stock

Meeting: 05/10/2016 - Housing Panel (Panel of the Scrutiny Committee) (Item 67)

67 Under-occupation in the Council’s housing stock pdf icon PDF 44 KB



Background Information


The Panel requested a report on measures to tackle under-occupation in the Council’s housing stock when agreeing its work plan for 2016/17.  This follows a previous report in February 2015.


Why is it on the agenda?


The Panel is asked to note and comment on the report.  The Panel may also wish to agree one or more recommendations to put to the City Executive Board in November.


Who has been invited to comment?


·         Cllr Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing;

·         Bill Graves, Landlord Services Manager.




Additional documents:



The Landlord Services Manager introduced the report which provided an update on a report presented to the Panel in February 2015.  He said that the incentives for downsizing were largely unchanged and remained among the most generous in the country but demand was not changing.  Only 10% of over 60s were found to be open to considering downsizing despite the incentives on offer.  


Overall 60% of Council properties were under-occupied but there had been a fairly significant drop of 140 under-occupied properties.  Some of these were due family members moving in to avoid the bedroom tax.  The Council had written to under-occupiers and a home-swapper event had raised the profile of mutual exchanges but had not resulted in any people downsizing.


The Panel commented that the suitability of available accommodation was a big factor and that older people wanted to remain close to friends, family and amenities.  The Panel questioned whether people could have the opportunity to view and assess properties, perhaps staying overnight, with a view to potentially downsizing.  The Landlord Services Manager said that this could hold up properties and cause void losses.  A show home was potentially an option, perhaps using sheltered stock, but he had not come across this idea elsewhere.  The Panel also noted that the neighbourhood was likely to be a big factor for people.


The Panel noted that the Council was waiting for information from Government on the policy of introducing flexible tenancies, which was expected to include the introduction of five year tenancies for new social tenants, successions and some transfers, after which there would be mandatory grounds for possession.  It was hoped that exceptions could be made for people fleeing domestic violence, downsizers and people in regeneration areas and this case was being put to Government. 


The Panel questioned how these changes were being communicated to tenants and heard that there had been a piece in the Tenants in Touch magazine but that the publicity wouldn’t start until the details of the policy were clearer.  The Panel noted that some people may exercise their right to buy in advance of the flexible tenancy and pay to stay policies coming in.  In response to a question, the Panel heard that these changes would affect over 60s as well as working age questions but despite higher rents for many households, staying put was likely to remain the cheapest option for them.


The Panel noted that any decisions on the local implementation of Flexible Tenancies and Pay to Stay are on the Panel’s work plan for pre-decision scrutiny.