Questions to the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health
The Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health delivered a presentation which updated the Committee on recent achievements and challenges ahead.
The Portfolio Holder advised that the Council was taking a holistic approach to meeting the needs of vulnerable and low-income households. This included identifying the cause of resident’s issues related to housing and health. In instances of delayed or none council tax payment, the council tax team would liaise with the HERO Officers to try to ascertain if the resident was having wider difficulty with debts to assist them further.
Members were advised that a ‘stair-casing’ approach provided help to people buying homes and described a system whereby a people would start with a lower percentage of owning and higher percentage of renting a property with this ratio reversing over time. Members also raised questions relating to the ‘local ladder’ scheme which was aimed at people who were paying more in rented accommodation than they would in a shared ownership scheme however struggled to raise the funds for a deposit. This scheme provided grants to cover deposits and Members were advised that people would need to qualify to be eligible. Councillors and the Housing Team were currently developing the scheme with selected banks.
Members raised questions on West Kent Housing’s ‘void policies’ for empty houses which Officers agreed to raise with West Kent Housing. The Portfolio Holder explained that the Housing Strategy covered both private and social housing. It was advised that West Kent Housing had recently demolished some of their older housing stock to rebuild new residential units for older people.
The Portfolio Holder advised that the Council had also developed its approach to hoarding with the introduction of the Hoarding Project in Partnership with West Kent Mind, funded through the Council’s Better Care Fund. The traditional approach to hoarding was to send Council Officers to clear the property however West Kent Mind were now funded by the Council to run support groups, provide ‘declutter buddies’ and to identify the reasons behind hoarding. Members were advised that this scheme was currently being considered for Kent wide implementation.
Members enquired how a member of the public would get access to the ‘Handy HERO’ team who were tasked with making small adaptions to properties which would allow people to remain independent in their own homes. It was advised that the public should call the Council who would confirm that the service was appropriate or refer the request to partners in the voluntary sector.
The Committee was advised that dementia friendly floors in care homes included soft fittings, contrasting colours for walls or plain carpets, memory boxes outside resident’s rooms and sensory rooms.
Members raised questions around Quercus Housing finances and it was explained that properties would only be purchased if they were financially viable. Requests for further details would need to be directed to the Company’s Board. Members enquired as to how Quercus Housing could be contacted.
The Committee were very impressed with the work undertaken by the Portfolio Holder and Health and Housing Teams.
The Chairman thanked the Portfolio Holder for her attendance.