Agenda item

Housing Business Plan

Reports to Follow.


FWilliamson presented the HRA Business Plan:

·        The objectives of the Council were to invest in existing stock, invest in a new build programme, and explore external factors that could influence the viability of the business plan.

·        The report set out the work currently underway to provide improved asset management data to inform the Investment Strategy in existing stock.

·        They were examining investment levels required to address Climate Emergency, and on-going investment in the new build programmes, the 3 major areas of expenditure within Housing Revenue.

·        Regards monitoring of the Housing Business Plan, monitoring through the SLT and Cabinet and Scrutiny Committees was annual and should reflect any changes in external, commercial, and economic factors, and impact of the pandemic and subsequent reduction in kitchens and bathrooms and other components on hold to reduce infection risk.

·        Regards the current iteration of the Business Plan, there was a 1% rent reduction over 4 years. They were now on the rent formula of CPI+1%, which had seen rents rise by 1.4%. Lifting the debt cap in October 2015 provided the Council with the opportunity to borrow to extend the new build programme or make additional investment in existing stock. There was now a cap set on the affordability of borrowing although there was no cap in Central Government.

·        Currently Central Government were looking at successes of Decent Home Standard. They were looking at the work undertaken by the Energy Savings Trust and the data on Energy Performance Certificates on their stock. They signed up to a Climate Emergency Declaration and the proposal in the HRA Business Plan was to move Council owned housing stock to Band C by 2030. This target was stipulated in the Government White Paper in respect of climate change.

·        A document appended to the Business Plan set out the investment the Council made in respect of moving properties to the Energy Performance Rating of C. Members might note they recently obtained funding from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to invest in a block of flats to improve the rating from D to B.

·        2022 Business Plan anticipated the arrears levels increasing because of the pandemic and subsequent furlough and redundancies. They increased the bad debt provision but the work of the Income Team and the support service managed to bring the rent arrears in January 2022 to 4.1%, lower than the same period in the previous year. This was the result of additional Income Officers who supported residents falling into arrears.

·        Some assumptions were made in respect of Right to Buy. Historically Right to Buy was 90-100 properties per year. In the last several years, there was a decline to 30-35 properties annually. An assumption in the Business Plan of 30 per annum from 2022 onwards.

·        They were investor partners so they could obtain a Homes England Affordable Homes Grant to supplement the investment in the new build programmes. They bid on a scheme-by-scheme basis. Homes England’s top criteria were that properties were let at social, not affordable, rent, and modern construction methods allowing the use of MMC products.

·        The stock condition survey was being undertaken, with 20% of properties concluded by the beginning of July. This stock data would further inform investment programmes. There was some delay because it coincided with the omicron variant but there was now a better access rate.

·        Another area for investment was the Building Safety Bill, which would come with requirements of all properties of over 18m in height to be certified by the Buildings Regulator. They were working to be prepared for that bill and the requirement to provide sufficient physical data and information on the original construction and compartmentalisation, which was key to internal safety of occupants in the event of fire spread.

·        Investment profile was set out in investment capital programmes with improvement works and the Council’s new build programme from 2026-2027. Properties currently under construction and in the development pipeline had been examined.

·        There was an increasing risk regards a pipeline of land availability for new build programmes. There was on-going work to look at assets the Council owned and private disposals of land available on the open market. Over the next 3 years they would get 100% stock condition data to have a reliable dataset to ensure investment programmes were targeting areas most in need.

·        Strategic Housing Function was a proposal within Tier 3 Restructure to create a new HRH Strategic Housing Function, focused on investment in investment stock and the wider place making strategy, and on-going supply of affordable homes. It would examine evidence of current affordable housing supply, and properties developed for social rent to ensure an affordable housing supply across the borough. This would involve research, policy, and strategic approaches. There was additional capacity required to deliver this function.

·        Investment and Asset Management Strategy linked to the Stock Condition Survey, Energy Savings Trust, and Stock Review. The proposal was to get 100% stock condition survey data on schemes that had communal areas in Category 2. Once data was acquired, they would undertake robust analysis to assist with the Investment Programmes. This would overlay any requirements.

·        FWilliamson noted this was a paving report and when further information was available, another report would be brought to Scrutiny in the autumn to ascertain the impact and borrowing strategy.



Cllr Hollinghurst thanked FWilliamson for the full and encouraging report. Cllr Hollinghurst asked that they consider energy generation and energy saving together. Cllr Hollinghurst asked FWilliamson to comment on strategy for income generation through solar panels as open spaces were huge resources to extract low-grade heat for background heating or electricity generated from roofs of public buildings. Cllr Griffiths noted the housing report did not go into the Council’s corporate plan, which would be part of Environment. An officer in the Housing Department could not speak to the corporate issues.

Cllr Mahmood noted the report’s Decent Home Standards and Carbon Targets by 2050. Cllr Mahmood asked how well they were prepared to achieve these goals with their older housing stock and if this could become a liability. FWilliamson commented the majority of their stock was Energy Performance D or above. It was difficult to obtain some grant funding targeting properties an E, F, or G. Their biggest challenge was understanding the future technology as the preferred long-term solution as a switch to gas to air source heat pumps or hydrogen. In respect of the journey to net carbon 0, they had to use the Fabric First approach, and there were opportunities around south facing roofs and PV. Looking at the heat switchover, whole-house approach to retrofit started with Fabric First, air source heat pumps which were higher than gas boilers with energy loading. A combination of PV to provide supplementary electrical generation would assist the running of the air source heat pumps which would be adopted. In respect of feed-in tariffs, these had been substantially reduced. A raise of PV had been put on 7 of the schemes. Regards the long-term proposal to get to 2050, there were challenges, the biggest being around alternative heat. The approach currently was prudent and aligned with recommendations from the Energy Saving Trust regards investment. There was some poorer performing stock. They were looking to raise these to Energy Performance C, their initial 2030 target.

Cllr Mahmood asked about the zero carbon map in respect of new builds. FWilliamson explained the Development Team set out criteria to ensure new build properties were future-proofed. Heat source was still a question but regards design specs and Energy Performance Rating, all new builds were B rating. Cllr Mahmood suggested they use battery power and district heating for flats and big units so it could be charged at off-peak time. FWilliamson confirmed they were exploring this for high concentrations of flat blocks and for Summer Court they rolled out a biomass district heating system. They also increased insulation, put PV on the roofs, and installed biomass boilers. Regards battery storage for micro generation, FWilliamson explained this was out of her remit but they were working with Energy Savings Trust to look at all available options and opportunities for reducing carbon loading.

Cllr Adeleke cited the Right to Buy decrease and asked how this affected the Council. FWilliamson explained that out of properties sold under Right to Buy, 30% became one-for-one receipt to be invested in the new build programme. Cllr Adeleke asked how this impacted the Council. FWilliamson explained it had not impacted the Business Plan because this was reviewed on an annual basis and it was in line with prior years. One-for-one could not be mixed with Affordable Homes, but it was hoped the Affordable Homes grant could be accessed through Homes England, reducing reliance on Right to Buy.

Cllr Friedman noted the impressive rent collections numbers given the pandemic and congratulated the team. He suggested they take advantage of remote working and get officers from other councils to second with them for 1-2 days a week to learn best practice, which may build relationships useful in future economic crises. Cllr Friedman suggested a policy on annual cap on service charges. Cllr Friedman noted no mention of leaseholders in the properties, and there were examples of leaseholders feeling they underwent unfair treatment from Councils, with leaseholders charged for the full amount of a repair rather than their share of a building. Cllr Friedman suggested detailing their approach to leaseholders in this policy.

FWilliamson passed on Cllr Friedman’s appreciation to the Income Team. FWilliamson agreed there was a good opportunity to showcase their work with respect of income levels. Regards cost recovery, some of the more intensive work undertaken in the last year showed data gaps in how apportionment in blocks was undertaken. There was a decision to cap charges this year so leaseholders and tenants were not unfairly charged. The aim was just to recover costs, rather than make money. This was capped on the basis of last year’s energy prices.

Regards leaseholders, FWilliamson noted the business Plan allowed for ground rent income at £10 per annum, with no increase recently. Regards the approach, and concerns about unfair charging for repairs, FWilliamson invited Cllr Friedman to share any cases. The officer assigned to this had left and they wished to understand the service leaseholders got.


·           Cllr Friedman to share incidents of leaseholders being unfairly charged.