To receive a report from the Group Manager for Housing providing an update on the work of the Building and Housing services during the national emergency arising from the Covid 19 pandemic.
The Group had before it, and NOTED, a report * from the Group Manager for Housing Services providing an update on the work of the Building and Housing services during the national emergency arising from the Covid 19 pandemic.
The contents of the report were outlined area by area with additional reference being made to the following:
· It was predicted that the end of the Government’s furlough scheme would have an effect upon the income received by the housing service.
· Homeless people had been housed in the Council’s accommodation during the pandemic. There had been challenges in the Homelessness area of work with a lot of liaison Government which had also provided some additional funding from the MCHLG.
· Rather than face to face a lot of communication had taken place with tenants electronically.
· The Housing Service had worked closely with other Devon local authorities as well as the Local Resilience Forum in connection with homelessness.
· The number of gas safety inspections being able to be carried out had decreased significantly during lockdown. This had been as a result of people shielding, people in isolation or tenants just being nervous about strangers entering their home. Non-compliance had not been so much of an issue as long has tenants had maintained contact with the Council.
· It had also been difficult to maintain the routine servicing schedule during recent months.
· For tenants that were unable to access Devon Home Choice (DHC) on-line, adverts were usually placed in libraries. Also a dedicated DHC co-ordinator had been present in Phoenix House throughout lockdown and could be contacted by phone and in person when the offices were open. An auto-bid system could also be set up to bid on their behalf.
· The effect of the pandemic on income was a ‘watch and wait’ situation at the current time. However, it was noted that the HRA was mainly funded by tenant rent and therefore housing services would need to be tailored accordingly if there was a significant drop in tenant income. A significant number of tenants were receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and this had had a positive impact upon our performance in recent weeks.
· A letter had been sent out to tenants by the Housing Minister approximately 6 weeks ago stating that there was £500m available nationally to help tenants if they were suffering financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. This was not paid directly to Council’s but could be applied for via the Revenues team. This was known as the ‘’Council Tax Hardship Scheme’ and many applications to it had been made.
· It was confirmed that access to support didn’t just have to be by digital means but also contact could be made by tenants on the phone or in person.
· Tenants had been extremely co-operative in terms of social distancing and disinfecting their properties when Council operatives have had to enter for maintenance or repair reasons.
· All emergency repairs had been able to be carried out during April and May. Adaptations had also still been completed enabling some people to be released from hospital early.
· The window replacement and modernisation contracts were both still on hold due to employees being furloughed.
The Group wished again to extend its thanks, and the thanks of the tenants who had spoken to Members, to the Housing Service staff for all they had done to support tenants through a very difficult time.
Note: * Report previously circulated; copy attached to the signed minutes.