The Chairman opened the item by thanking the officers for their work towards the Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy.
The Head of Housing and Community Engagement explained that the Strategy itself should take 5 years to implement, whilst the action plan should take 18 months. The Strategy would be a living document to be updated as necessary, and the plan next would be to create a Housing Strategy, which whilst not a requirement, would help facilitate the Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy, which was a requirement.
In response to questions by Members of the Board about the relationship between Portsmouth City Council and Havant Borough Council, the Head of Housing and Community Engagement explained that Portsmouth City Council tenants in the Borough pay rent and council tax to Portsmouth City Council and Havant Borough Council respectively. Portsmouth City Council pay Housing Benefit to their residents and manage homeless residents under their remit.
In response to questions by Members of the Board about the changes in Homelessness Strategy due to the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, the Head of Housing and Community Engagement and the Housing Manager (Development) explained that:
a) housing prices in the Borough were controlled by the broad rental market area rates, which encompassed all areas from Portsmouth to Liss;
b) if needed to be regulated then housing benefit could be safeguarded and given to landlords;
c) as long as there was basic supply and demand then people would purchase homes in every area of the Borough;
d) there was one Bed and Breakfast in the Borough which offers emergency housing through Havant Borough Council. The Council could however offer mediation and compensation where required in order to help house a rough sleeper;
e) affordable homes to the West of Winchester were made available to the Council due to the Hampshire Homes Choice Partnership;
f) more officers had been employed post-implementation of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Act in order to handle the new statutory duty;
g) solely grant funding was used to pay for the new housing strategy;
h) the Council had a duty to prevent homelessness within 56 days of notice of homelessness and a duty to relieve homelessness within 56 days – as per the statutory obligation.
The Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Lead of Planning, Regeneration and Communities divulged that there was a need for different products to be developed to house the homeless community, such as B&Bs and privately rented accommodation.
In response to questions by Members of the Board about temporary accommodation, the Head of Housing and Community Engagement and the Housing Manager (Development) advised that:
I. Brent House will be addressed from 2020 onwards, as there are specific surveys needed, but they are looking at a mixed age housing development opportunity;
II. there are approximately 20 people in the housing system being aided by HBC at any one time, and below 80 in total throughout the year;
III. the risk assessments involved in every aspect of homelessness housing will limit resources available to use;
IV. as of 22 November 2019 there were no rough sleepers recorded in the Borough of Havant;
V. there was community opposition to PODS being set up;
VI. a portacabin could not be used as emergency overnight shelter due to a number of factors.
In response to questions by Members of the Board about customer experience, the Head of Housing and Community Engagement and the Housing Manager (Development) advised that:
A. communications could be placed on Council noticeboards in the Borough notifying residents of where to look for accomodation in the event of a homelessness situation;
B. specific targeted information directed at different groups was to be put on the website, to be reviewed regularly;
C. the emergency out of hours service was used less than 3 times a month, including for housing;
D. the costs of advertising needed to remain in the budget for the grant.
The Board RECOMMENDED THAT the Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy be approved in full by Cabinet.