Gerry Crowley (Head of Allocations & Lettings) and Lucy Baker (Prevention & Rough Sleeping Commissioner) presented the item.
Councillor Morton asked about the percentage of void reduction as he observed some properties in his ward had been left unoccupied for 3 years. Gerry Crowley noted that the target was to reduce void by 2% by the end of the financial year. He undertook to follow up the situation of the void unit in the Councillor’s ward.
ACTION: Gerry Crowley
Councillor Alexander also considered it was necessary to get void units back to use as soon as possible in order to relocate to residents facing homelessness. He was keen to ensure these units meet the minimum standards without the need for the residents to go through the lengthy repair procedures. Gerry Crowley explained that the lettings standard had recently been enhanced and they would ensure the relevant standards were met by the recovered void units.
Richard Buckley (Assistant Director, Residents & Building Safety) undertook to circulate after the meeting information on the building specifications adopted by H&F which was of a high standard. He highlighted a key aspect of the void reduction plan was to upgrade 50% of the properties with new kitchens and bathrooms in the next 5 years.
ACTION: Richard Buckley
Councillor Alford asked about the rate of relapse where hostel residents resumed rough sleeping. Lucy Baker advised some hostel residents who had come out of institutions like the hospitals or prisons might settle on the streets again. Staff in her team might arrange them to stay at temporary accommodation and then hostel residence. While the majority would be placed successfully, a few chose to return to the street.
Councillor Alford was concerned about the accommodation of refugees at the low-standard hotels. Gerry Crowley noted that the Home Office was providing support to refugees from Syria and Afghanistan and running the Homes for Ukraine scheme matching UK sponsors with those fleeing the country. H&F had established a dedicated team to help eligible households on the waiting list to set up family homes in the borough. Lucy Baker noted that the Director of Social Care Transformation might provide further information in writing on the accommodation of refuges.
ACTION: Lucy Baker / Linda Jackson
Noting that rough sleeping in London had increased by 24% in Q2 this year compared to the same period last year, Councillor Asif Siddique asked about the situation in H&F. Lucy Baker noted that rough sleeping in H&F had increased by 22% in Q2 2022 with some being new rough sleepers. While granular details for individual cases were available, the reasons of rough sleeping in general were due to loss of rental accommodation, relationship breakdown or the rough sleepers were asked to move out by families or friends.
In reply to Councillor Siddique’s further enquiry, Lucy Baker noted health and wellbeing usually formed part of the assessment conducted by the outreach team. For example, the Rough Sleepers Assessment Hub conducted a comprehensive assessment aligning the support of the registered GP and mental health service provider like RAMHP which was part of the West London Mental Health Trust.
Responding to Councillor Siddique’s concern, Gerry Crowley noted that people unfamiliar with the digital services might make applications via paper forms obtainable from the Housing Officers.
Summing up, the Chair noted that the cost-of-living crisis was unfortunately likely continue, and the Committee would welcome further reports on the topic.
ACTION: Gerry Crowley & Lucy Baker