Questions to the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health
The Chairman welcomed the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health who gave an update on his portfolio and took questions from the Committee. Previous years had challenged the services provided under the portfolio and a wide range of these problems had been overcome since the pandemic.
In response to questions it was confirmed that a framework had been put into place across Kent to manage the displacement of refugees through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The Council had recruited a Resettlement Officer and Housing Officer to facilitate this in the Sevenoaks District. The Team had focused on maintaining conversations with existing hosts and welcomed the continuation of Government support for the scheme. Where host arrangements had ended, rematching opportunities were being sought, alongside private rented sector offers within the county. Support for refugees had been developed to help with language skills, jobs and training support and community based support. Officers were commended for their responsiveness to families that had been displaced by their hosting arrangements ending
The One You programme had seen an increase in GPs directly referring regular patients to the service. The service was funded externally by Kent Public Health and provided support and guidance on physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The Council’s Housing Strategy had been adopted earlier in the year. A Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy had also been drafted, which would focus on the prevention of homelessness, housing supply and continue to build relationships with landlords and Housing Associations in the District. Following queries, the Portfolio Holder advised that the need for affordable housing was increasing and the Team were active in encouraging more affordable housing during the planning process. 15 new homes had been acquired by Quercus Housing at 11-13 High Street, Swanley, which were fully occupied from May 2022. Following a question, Members were advised that Quercus Housing had purchased the residential units from a developer, but did not acquire the shops, which remained in the developer’s ownership. It was confirmed that West Kent Housing owned 98% of the housing stock in the district, with the second largest social housing provider being Moat Housing.
Action 1 – For the Chief Officer – People and Places to update Members with the figures for the number of affordable housing units managed by Housing Associations within the District.
In response to a question on housing standards Members were advised that all housing providers reported to the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), which promoted a viable, efficient and well-governed social housing sector able to deliver and maintain homes of appropriate quality that met a range of needs. RSH was an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The Portfolio Holder advised that a range of Housing Associations were also being engaged to raise the market for competition in the sector and increase the social housing offer in the District. In response to a question Members were also advised that travel warrants could be issued for emergency housing applicants, where eligible and if necessary.
The Chairman thanked the Portfolio Holder for his attendance and update.