Agenda and minutes
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Contact: Tom Hudson, Scrutiny Officer email firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This meeting was held by Zoom and streamed to the Council's YouTube channel
Election of Chair for 2020/21
At its meeting on 02 June 2020 the Scrutiny Committee agreed that the Chair of the Housing and Homelessness Panel would be elected by the Panel at its first meeting. The Panel, therefore, is asked to elect a Chair for the civic year 2020/21.
Vice-Chair, Councillor Aziz, sought nominations for the role of Chair of the Housing and Homelessness Panel for the civic year 2020/21.
Councillor Bely-Summers was ELECTED Chair of the Housing and Homelessness Panel for the civic year 2020/21
Having been elected, Councillor Bely Summers took over as Chair.
Substitutes are not allowed.
Declarations of interest
For the Panel to note and agree its work plan, which can be adjusted to reflect the wishes of the Panel.
The Panel considered the proposed workplan for the forthcoming year.
The following requests were made and AGREED:
- To reschedule the date of the next meeting from 02 September to 03 September
- To seek an opportunity for the Panel to discuss the issue of hidden homelessness
- To schedule papers on Housing’s contribution to carbon reduction as early as possible.
- To add the CIL Charging Schedule to the work plan.
For the Panel to approve the record of the meeting held on 7th November 2019.
The notes of the meeting held on 07 November 2019 were AGREED.
It was also AGREED that the following be provided:
- An update on the progress made on the Champion Way project (community led housing)
- An update on the work of the Lived Experience Advisory Forum
- A briefing on the action being taken in light of growing rent arrears by tenants in Council properties and the support being provided.
Cabinet will be considering the Housing Delivery Plan at its meeting on 12th August. The Panel is asked to consider the report and make any recommendations accordingly.
Carolyn Ploszynski,, Planning Policy and Place Manager, and Tom Rice, Principal Planner will be attending the meeting to present the report. Councillor Alex Hollingsworth has also been invited to attend and speak to the report.
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery, introduced the report. A Housing Delivery Plan was a government requirement for councils whose housing completions were below 95% of their housing requirement over the past three years. It was unclear whether the Council fell into this category because central government to date had been unable to clarify which historical measures the Council should be measured against. Regardless of the whether it was mandated by central government or not, the Council had decided to develop one. Doing so had proven a particularly useful exercise in making clear the importance of ensuring the sites identified for development in the Local Plan are indeed completed; to meet its housing requirement (not including the unmet need met by neighbouring councils) Oxford would have to see 100% of its sites developed each year to 2036. The main housing sources arose from the Council, Oxford University, colleges within the University, and private developers, and the plan sought to identify and defuse any barriers to delivery before they could result in a shortfall in housing delivery.
The Panel raised a number of questions regarding the following:
- Actions being taken to support the delivery of the Julian Housing and Lucy Faithfull sites. The Julian Housing site was reported to be on track, having only recently received planning permission. The Lucy Faithfull site had been subject to a hold up due to the presence of a 15th century friary beneath it, requiring archaeological investigation, but it was otherwise moving forward.
- The reasons behind the significant disparity between the level of the Council’s delivery under different measures. This was due to a quirk caused by Oxford being unable to meet its housing need. For the years without a government agreed target, if the Council were to be held up against its overall housing needs based on demographics as opposed to deliverability (a figure recognised by government in the current Local Plan as undeliverable) this would result in a very high target, meaning a significant shortfall. If the figures were based on Oxford’s ability to deliver, this would mean a much lower target and a much higher proportion therefore achieved.
- The levels of response to the Council’s outreach activity with site promoters. It was suggested in response that the timing was unfortunate; the first round of outreach had commenced in the middle of lockdown.
- The impact of possible future changes to the planning system. Particular concerns were expressed by Councillor Hollingsworth over ministerial proposals for automatic permission to be granted to certain properties. The impact would be to negate many of the Council’s policies in its current Local Plan whilst not speeding up housing delivery. In other changes, the upcoming update to rules around permitted development rights were in the process of being put into a briefing paper which would be distributed to all councillors, but it was noted that the rights to extend upwards in most areas would have a potentially deeply detrimental impact ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Presentation: Impact of Covid on Private Rented Sector Tenants
Members of the Oxford Tenants Union will be presenting to the Panel on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on tenants within the private rented sector. This will be followed by time for discussion. The Panel is asked to consider the issues raised and make any recommendations accordingly.
NB This is no report for this item.
The Panel welcomed two representatives from the Oxford Tenants Union to speak on the impact they had seen of Covid-19 on private rented sector tenants.
Following an introduction to the work of the Oxford Tenants Union the Panel were informed of the changing challenges faced by tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially, concerns were raised over failures by landlords and agents to maintain social distancing, attending properties for viewings unannounced or entering without tenant permission. Latterly, problems had arisen in shared properties where tenants had been held responsible for the full rent following the departure of a house-mate. The pressure of paying rent during the pandemic had caused many people to be ‘sick with worry’ throughout, and those who had few alternative options were facing sofa-surfing or rough sleeping. Maintaining people in their homes was suggested to be the best means of preventing a significant rise in homelessness. As one of the places nationally with the most acute ratio between rents and earnings, Oxford would be particularly vulnerable to such an increase.
Panel members sought clarification on the scale of the problems within Oxford and the proportion of people the Council would have a duty to house. Knowing these figures precisely was acknowledged to be a challenge, with multiple advice providers in the city, and the unwillingness of people to seek help until being at the point of near-crisis.
In discussion it was recognised that the Council held very little power over landlords. However, it was suggested that the experience of the Tenants Union was that communication over good practice, and raising awareness of tenants’ needs could be important ways of improving tenant-landlord relations during the pandemic. Raising awareness of tenants’ rights was also an important undertaking. The difficulty in communicating with at-risk tenants, and landlords was recognised as challenging. A challenge faced by the Tenants Union was in communicating information on tenants rights to non-English speaking communities, many of whom had an elevated housing risk profile.
Panel members discussed whether there existed a need for a social lettings agency. The concept was given support by Panel invitees on the basis that if it followed similar schemes elsewhere in the county would increase the availability of social housing in a city with a high unmet need.
The mutual threat to landlords and tenants caused by the pandemic was noted by the Panel, though it was recognised that the earlier and more acute damage would be felt by tenants. Being able to support and intervene early was identified as crucial in preventing homelessness but there was a potential blockage in knowing who was at risk until very late stages.
In a context of growing job losses and increased benefit claimants, the Panel discussed the high levels of non-compliance by landlords following the legal ruling that ‘no DSS’ clauses in adverts were discriminatory.
It was AGREED to make the following recommendations:
- That the Council uses its existing channels of communication to share information on tenants’ rights and advice relevant to the ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Date of next meeting
Meetings are scheduled as follows:
- 08 October 2020
- 05 November 2020
The Panel is also asked to note that an additional meeting will be scheduled in early February 2021, the precise date TBC.
All meetings begin at 6.00pm.
The Panel NOTED the amended date of the next meeting, 03 September 2020.