Agenda item

Agenda item

Oxford City Council's Tenancy Strategy & Policy


Background Information

The City Executive Board on 20 March will be asked to approve the Draft Tenancy Strategy and Tenancy Policy 2018-23 (and associated appendices) as draft documents to be published for a period of public and stakeholder consultation.

Why is it on the agenda?

This item offers the Panel the opportunity to consider the report and make recommendations to the City Executive Board.

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing;

·         Stephen Clarke, Head of Housing Services;

·         Frances Evans, Strategy & Service Development Manager.





The Strategy and Service Development Manager introduced the report which was due to be presented to the City Executive Board on 20 March 2018. The report contained a Draft Tenancy Strategy and a Tenancy Policy, as the current policy was due for renewal. The Strategy and Service Development Manager highlighted key issues to the Panel, which included:


·         There were no fundamental changes to the proposed Strategy and Policy.

·         The Housing and Planning Act 2016 sets out a mandatory requirement for Local Authorities to offer flexible fixed term tenancies. However, until such time that guidance is issued on the implementation of this requirement, it is recommended that the City Council’s policy is to continue with its current offer of lifetime tenancies.

·         Some tenures were offered at 80% of the market rate (which were still above Local Housing Allowance rates) and shared ownerships options are still not affordable for many people.

·         The Strategy and Policy must be reviewed once the new regulations come into effect, and this will be brought back to the Panel and City Executive Board. 


Members of the Panel asked why some Local Authorities were already introducing flexible fixed tenancies. It was explained that these authorities would review the status of their tenants after 4 years to assess their affordability and whether they could downsize. This would lead to a higher rate of tenant turnover.


The Panel expressed concern over the impact the mandatory element of the new legislation could have on the City Council and its tenants. The Strategy and Service Development Manager explained that the new mandatory arrangements would require more resources to deal with an increase in occupancy reviews, and the need to support more housing reallocations. It was clarified that the mandatory fixed term tenancies would only apply to new tenants.


The Chair asked whether the current policy would lead to house blocking, where one tenant may occupy a larger home for an extended period of time. The Strategy and Service Development Manager said there were alternative provisions and incentives people to downsizing, and this was effectively managed without the need for fixed term tenancies.


The Housing Strategy and Needs Manager said some housing associations had already introduced flexible fixed tenancies for new tenants. The Council’s own housing company would set its own tenancy strategy, but had already committed to offering lifetime tenancies, as this was a condition of the Oxford Register of Affordable Housing.


The Head of Housing Services said Central Government’s intention was to reduce under-occupation through the mandatory arrangements. However, the Panel and the Board Member for Housing were concerned about the impact compulsory moves would have on tenant wellbeing, community cohesion and the maintenance of properties. The Panel were also concerned about the lack of good quality small housing units. Officers clarified that there may be exceptions for mandatory downsizing where children, for example, are living at home.


The Strategy and Service Development Manager explained that the Draft Strategy would go out for a four week public consultation on 21 March 2018. The Panel noted that the median level of personal income of residents in Oxford compared to the average rental cost in the City presented a challenge for affordability. Nationally, rental costs were calculated to be approximately 25% of net household income; however this was calculated at 35% for Oxford. The National Housing Federation suggests that spending over a third of household income on housing costs can negatively impact on the affordability of other essential services. 

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