Tenancy Strategy 2013

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1 Tenancy Strategy 2013 Environmental and Health

2 Contents Key Facts about Affordable Housing in Stafford Borough Pg 4 Introduction 5 Background 5 Aims of the Strategy 7 Regulatory Requirements and Registered Provider Tenancy Policies 7 Tenure 8 Housing Applications and Allocations 10 Succession 11 Social Mobility 12 Homelessness and Use of Private Rented Sector 13 Affordable Rent 14 Monitoring and Review 15 Contact Details Enquiries on the Tenancy Strategy should be addressed to: Stephen Ward Housing Strategy and Research Officer e. t John Fraser Health and Housing Services Group Manager e. t Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy 2013 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy

3 Tenancy Strategy Introduction 2. Background Key Facts about Affordable Housing in Stafford Borough Homes in the Borough There are approximately 56,000 homes in Stafford Borough, of those, there are: 7,200 affordable homes managed by 14 Registered Providers Estimated 4,500 private rented properties Source (Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix & Census 2001) Average Rents in the Borough Average market rent for a 2 bed property = 121 per week Average social rent for a 2 bed property = 74 per week Estimated Affordable Rent for a 2 bed property = 96 per week Source (Hometrack) Affordable Housing The Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2012 predicts a need for 210 new affordable homes per year Affordable housing completions: 2007/08 = /09 = /10 = /11 = /12 = 83 Source (Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix) Housing Register 1598 applicants on the housing register (October 2012): Band 1 (Urgent Housing Need) = 76 households Band 2 (High Housing Need) = 356 households Band 3 (Housing Need) = 392 households Band 4 (No Housing Need) = 774 households Source (Homesfirst) Social Housing Lettings in the Borough General needs social housing lets: 2008/09 = /10 = /11 = 483 Source (CORE Lettings Data) House Prices The average house price in Stafford Borough is 198,520 The average lower quartile house price (entry level for first time buyers) in Stafford Borough is 124,950 The average income in Stafford Borough in 25,975 Source (Hometrack) 1.1 The Localism Act 2011 places a statutory duty on Local Authorities in England to prepare and publish a Tenancy Strategy. The Tenancy Strategy must consider both the Council s current Housing Allocations Policy and its Homelessness Strategy. The strategy must also detail the broad objective to which Registered Providers of affordable housing operating in the Borough must have regard to when formulating their own policies on the type of tenancy that they grant. 1.2 Stafford Borough Council recognises that Registered Providers are independent organisations working across Local Authority boundaries and the valuable role that each Registered Provider plays in helping to meet housing need in the Borough. There are 14 Registered Providers in the Borough, each with individual allocations policies therefore this strategy sets out the broad principles that the Council expects the Registered Providers to consider. The Localism Act The Localism Act 2011 contains a range of reforms to housing legislation and policy and, together with the Welfare Reform Act 2012, marks a shift in the way that social housing is developed, let and allocated. The social housing reforms are intended to: Allow greater freedom to determine who qualifies for social housing and the length of tenancy agreements Make better use of the affordable housing stock Use social housing as a springboard to employment and self sufficiency 2.2 The Localism Act 2011 also takes away the legislative requirement for social housing to be allocated for life and provides an opportunity to create tenancies that exist to meet fixed periods of need. It also provides flexibility over the allocation of social housing. The Act also enables Local Authorities to discharge their homelessness duty by placing homeless households in private sector housing and gives Registered Providers a range of new flexibilities including: The type of tenancy that is granted The circumstances in which a tenancy can be granted The length of term for fixed term tenancies The circumstances in granting a new tenancy following the ending of an existing one Making better use of existing accommodation Building new homes and letting existing homes under the new affordable rent tenure Continued overleaf 4 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy 2013 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy

4 2. Background 3. Aims of the Strategy 4. Regulatory Requirements and Registered Provider Tenancy Policies 2.3 In February 2006, Stafford Borough Council transferred its housing stock to Stafford and Rural Homes. The two organisations have developed a joint Housing Allocations Policy and Stafford and Rural Homes manage the Housing Register on behalf of the Council. There are thirteen other Registered Providers in the Borough all of which have their own allocation policies and separate nominations agreements with the Council. 2.4 Stafford Borough Council provides a Housing Options Service to people that would like advice and information about their housing choices, and will also identify those who are statutorily homeless. 2.5 The Localism Act 2011 allows for Registered Providers to introduce the new Affordable Rent product and to convert a number of existing social rented homes to affordable rent. The Welfare Reform Act The Welfare Reform Act 2012 will have a fundamental impact on both social housing and the private rented sector: All benefits, including housing benefit, paid direct to claimants as one Universal Credit Benefit cap of 18,200 for single people Benefit cap of 26,000 for single parents Benefits capped to 26,000 for couples both or without children New Size Criteria for housing related element of Universal Credit (for those not of pensionable age) 2.7 The change to welfare reforms are to be implemented from April 2013 and will take until April 2017 to be completed. The impacts of the changes are not yet known, however, Stafford Borough Council will work with Registered Providers to minimise any negative impacts to residents and tenants in the Borough. 2.8 This Strategy has been developed in consultation with Registered Providers and a wide range of stakeholders. It is important to note that some Registered Providers may have existing contractual agreements with the Homes and Communities Agency concerning the development of new affordable rent products for the delivery of housing until March Stafford Borough Council expect Registered Providers operating in the Borough to ensure their policies take regard of this Strategy. The key aims of this Tenancy Strategy are to: Fulfil the Council s legal duty as set out in the Localism Act 2011 Set out Stafford Borough Council s position to Registered Providers operating in the Borough Make best use of the housing stock Prevent homelessness and enable housing to be offered to those in the greatest need 4.1 It is a regulatory requirement that Registered Providers let their homes in a fair, transparent and efficient way which takes into account the housing needs and aspirations of tenants and potential tenants, they should demonstrate how their lettings: Make the best use of the available housing stock Ensure housing is provided to those in the highest housing need Support and build sustainable communities Contribute to local authority strategies and policies 4.2 Registered Providers are also required to publish clear and accessible Tenancy Polices that set out their approach to tenancy management. This should include detail on potential interventions to sustain tenancies, prevent unnecessary evictions and how to tackle tenancy fraud. 4.3 In developing Tenancy Policies, Registered Providers are expected to engage and consult with Stafford Borough Council to ensure that their policy is in line with the principles of this Strategy. 6 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy 2013 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy

5 5. Tenure 5. Tenure continued 5.1 Following the introduction of the Localism Act 2011, Registered Providers are no longer restricted to offering a tenancy for life. Registered Providers have the option of being able to let homes on fixed-term tenancies and whilst the Act gives two years as a minimum term, the Government has indicated that five years will be the minimum in most cases. Only in exceptional circumstances should a two year tenancy be granted. Exceptional circumstances must be set out in a Registered Providers Tenancy Policy. Registered Providers will also still be able to offer lifetime tenancies if they wish to do so. 5.2 The Government s intention with fixed term tenancies gives Local Authorities and Registered Providers the opportunity to make better use of affordable housing stock by addressing issues such as overcrowding, under-occupation and promotion of social mobility. It is important, however, that the opportunity to offer fixed term tenancies does not disadvantage vulnerable households and that they are provided with a level of stability that they require to maintain a successful standard of living. 5.3 Existing tenants are not affected by the changes in the Localism Act 2011 and Registered Providers should protect the existing tenant s security of tenure as far as possible. Figure 1. Social Housing Lettings in Stafford Borough Source (CORE Lettings Data) Lettings in Stafford Borough What is Stafford Borough 5.5 Meeting Housing Need (See Figure 1.) The Council s aim is that housing need is met both in the short and long term and that there is an appropriate balance between housing supply and demand. The Council would also like to achieve a balanced position that makes best use of housing stock whilst supporting communities and individuals. 5.6 The decision made by a Registered Provider to offer either a long-term or lifetime tenancy should be taken in light of the personal circumstances of the household, the property and the levels of housing need in that area. It will be at the Registered Provider s discretion as to what percentage of their stock they offer for fixed and lifetime tenancies. 5.7 The Council therefore support Registered Providers in the use of new fixed term tenancies that are for a minimum of five years. The Council will only support two year fixed term tenancies in exceptional circumstances that are identified in the Registered Provider s Tenancy Policy. The Council also support the use of lifetime tenancies especially where tenants are considered to have long term vulnerability, long term care needs or are in older person s accommodation / / / Reviewing Tenancies The Council suggests that a review of tenancies should be undertaken at least six months before the tenancy is due to come to an end. When a Registered Provider comes to review a fixed term tenancy, it may consider the household profile; vulnerability, conduct, income and employment/ training circumstances. Any issues regarding rent arrears and anti social behaviour should be addressed through out the course of the tenancy and not necessarily as party of the tenancy review Registered Providers may decide not to renew a fixed term tenancy in the following circumstances: Change in the size of the household so the home is being under occupied or overcrowded Household income would enable the tenant to purchase or rent a property in the private sector If there is a vulnerable household that needs to move for support needs or is in a property that is adapted for a disabled person and the adaptation is no longer needed 5.9 Ending Tenancies When a fixed term tenancy is due for a review and the property is still considered to be suitable in terms of size and affordability, the Council supports the tenancy being renewed Registered Providers may also wish to offer new tenants a probationary or starter tenancy before entering into a fixed term tenancy. This may be particularly appropriate for younger tenants and can be linked to packages of housing support to help tenants to sustain tenancies. Stafford Borough Council supports the use of probationary and starter tenancies in the appropriate circumstances It is a legal requirement that when a Registered Provider intends to end a fixed term tenancy it must provide a notice in writing stating that it will not be renewing the tenancy. The Registered Provider should provide the tenant with appropriate advice or assistance to help them in finding alternative accommodation. This advice should be delivered in such a way that there is a minimal negative impact on the Council s Housing Options Service There may also be circumstances where a Registered Provider provides a tenancy for life, but this guarantee may not be in respect of the actual property that the tenant is currently occupying. There may be some instances where remaining in the same property is not in the best interest of the tenant. For example, a tenant may be granted a tenancy for life but need to move property because they suffer from long-term illness or a disability where the vulnerability may remain but the personal circumstances change How can Registered Providers 5.15 It is Stafford Borough Council s expectation that a Registered Provider would not end a tenancy on the expiry of the fixed term where there would be a duty on Stafford Borough Council to provide interim accommodation without a plan of agreed action in place. In these circumstances the Registered Provider should inform Stafford Borough Council s Housing Options Team with advanced notice of the expiry of the tenancy (the same notice as given to the tenant) and share relevant information about the household if they do not wish to extend the tenancy. The Registered Provider and the Council will be in a position to help the tenant to find alternative accommodation where a tenancy will not be renewed Registered Providers advice and assistance should be sufficient to facilitate appropriate move-on. Registered Providers must work with the Council s Housing Options Team to prevent homelessness where fixed term tenancies will not be renewed Registered Providers should set out clearly in their Tenancy Policy the way in which a tenant or prospective tenant may appeal against the length of tenancy they are offered, the type of tenancy offered or the decision not to renew a tenancy at the end of the fixed term. The Localism Act 2011 (Section 154) states that Registered Providers will also be responsible for carrying out any requests for a review of their decision. 8 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy 2013 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy

6 6. Housing Applications and Allocations (See Figure 2.) 7. Succession 6.1 The Housing Act 1996 (as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002) places a duty on Local Authorities to provide a housing allocations policy. The Homelessness Act 2002 places an emphasis on Local Authorities having an open waiting list which means that anyone can apply for housing regardless of their level of housing need or where they are from. 6.2 Following the introduction of the Localism Act 2011, Local Authorities can adapt their allocations policies and have a greater control over how social housing is allocated. For example the Council could choose to restrict its allocations policy to people that have a local connection to the Borough and that have been assessed to have housing need. 6.3 The statutory reasonable preference requirements remain in force, certain groups such as the homeless and those with medical needs must be given priority under the allocations policy. 6.4 Local Authorities will be able to review on a regular basis which households they prioritise for housing. Although reasonable preference must be given to particular groups, it will be possible to give additional preference to other people for other reasons. For example, it would be possible to give additional priority based on length of residence or employment status. 6.5 What is Stafford Borough Council s Position? 6.6 Stafford Borough Council has a joint allocations policy Homesfirst with Stafford and Rural Homes who also manage the Housing Register on behalf of the Council. As of October 2012 there are 1598 households on the register, of which 824 are in reasonable preference categories. 6.7 The Council continues to support an open Housing Register for both households that do and do not have a local connection. The Housing Register will also be open to both those in housing need and those that are not in housing need but have a desire to move. 6.8 How can Registered Providers 6.9 Registered Providers existing and future Lettings Policies that are used to ensure sustainable communities should have regard to this Tenancy Strategy Registered Providers are encouraged to develop local lettings policies, in partnership with Parish Councils for new developments on rural exception sites Registered Providers with housing stock in Stafford Borough must have a nominations agreement with the Council. Each nomination agreement will be monitored and reported on an annual basis. Stafford Borough Council will seek to use its nomination rights in general needs accommodation, independent living/sheltered accommodation and Extra Care housing. 7.1 The Localism Act 2011 allows for one succession by a spouse or partner, so where a tenant dies the tenancy can be succeeded by their partner or spouse. Children or other members of the household do not have any rights of succession. 7.2 It is possible for Registered Providers to be flexible when considering succession, for example they could allow another succession where an adult son or daughter has lived in the home. The Registered Provider may also decide that the property is not suitable or affordable and help to find the successor a more appropriate property. 7.3 What is Stafford Borough 7.4 Stafford Borough Council support the new flexible approach to succession and that automatic succession is limited to the partner or spouse of the tenant. It would, however, expect consideration to be given for an additional succession to another person where a full housing assessment has taken place and the person has sufficient priority under the Council s or Registered Providers Housing Allocations Policy. 7.5 The Council would not encourage Registered Providers to allow a succession to take place that would leave a household underoccupied. Registered Providers may wish to allow the succession of a tenancy but in an appropriate sized property. 7.6 How can Registered Providers Figure 2: Stafford Borough Housing Waiting List Analysis as at April 2012 Housing Register Stafford and Rural Homes Registered Providers can support the Council s strategy by considering the Localism Act 2011 when reviewing their existing policies on succession. Band 1 - Urgent Housing Need Band 2 - High Housing Need Band 3 - Housing Need Band 4 - No Housing Need Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy 2013 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy

7 8. Social Mobility 9. Homelessness and use of Private Rented Sector 8.1 In October 2011 the Government announced its intention to launch a new national HomeSwap scheme that allows social housing tenants wanting to swap their home to see available social housing properties in the country. 8.2 The Government intends to give tenants who want to move house to be closer to a new job, their family, or to a property better suited to their needs, greater choice over potential swaps by allowing them to see a much wider selection of properties. 8.3 Until now tenants have been restricted to swapping properties with other tenants in the scheme chosen by their landlord. The Government wishes to give tenants access to properties nationwide and increase their prospects of moving. 8.4 What is Stafford Borough 8.5 The Council support the aim to make it easier for tenants to seek possible exchange partners and to increase tenants choices and control over where they live. Increasing mobility can lead to better opportunities to meet housing needs. 8.6 The Council encourage home swaps particularly where these resolve a housing issue such as under-occupation or overcrowding or where they provide opportunities for households wishing to exchange for reasons such as securing employment. 8.7 How can Registered Providers 8.8 Registered Providers can provide information advice and assistance to their tenants who wish to move, they can also ensure that tenants have access to internet based home swap and mutual exchange facilities. Registered Provider s should ensure that appropriate support is provided for vulnerable tenants and for those who do not have internet access. 9.1 The Localism Act 2011 has introduced a significant change to the way that local authorities can use the private rented sector to house those assessed as being statutorily homeless. 9.2 Local authorities owe a range of duties to homeless people and in cases where the household is found to be in priority need and unintentionally homeless, the authority is obliged to find housing for them temporarily until they are re-housed in longer-term and appropriate accommodation. Currently, this longer-term accommodation is usually social housing, although the duty can be met by providing private rented accommodation, with the consent of the applicant. 9.3 The Localism Act 2011 allows local authorities to discharge their duty to homeless households with an offer of suitable accommodation in the private rented sector, provided that the tenancy offered is for a minimum of 12 months. The homelessness duty would recur if, within 2 years, the applicant becomes homeless again through no fault of his or her own and re-applies. The re-application duty will apply to any Council not just the Council who accepted the original homelessness duty. 9.4 What is Stafford Borough 9.5 Stafford Borough Council has strong relationships with private landlords and letting agents to secure accommodation for homeless people in the Borough. This change in legislation presents greater opportunities to do so and this option is welcomed. The Council will, however, need to be mindful in discharging its duty in this way to ensure that only suitable accommodation is used and that repeat homelessness is not encouraged by placing people in the private rented sector. 9.6 The changes contained within the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the timescales in which each of those changes are likely to be made must be considered. This is to ensure that the Council do not place homeless customers in the private rented sector in a property that they will no longer be able to afford when changes are made to the Local Housing Allowance and other benefits. 9.7 When the homelessness duty is discharged into the private rented sector, the Council will ensure that the customer is made fully aware of the roles and responsibilities involved in leasing a private rented sector property and the differences between private rented and social housing. 9.8 How will Stafford Borough Council use the new Legislation? 9.9 The Council will only use the private rented sector to discharge the homelessness duty when the household has been assessed as being suitable for private sector housing and where an appropriate property is available on a minimum of a 12 month tenancy. The Council will also closely monitor the effect of placing people into the private rented sector and whether the households present as homeless again during or after the 12 month tenancy. If this happens, the Council will consider reviewing its approach. The Council will encourage landlords to offer tenancies of 12 months or more using a range of incentives for example Landlord Accreditation, advice and support, deposit bonds and rent in advance The Council will also monitor the impact of welfare benefit changes on the supply of private rented housing as well as on those presenting as homeless due to receiving a notice seeking possession Given the introduction of the Localism Act 2011 and Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the continued pressure on the social housing stock it is essential that the Council builds and maintains strong relationships with private sector landlords. The Council is keen to work with private sector landlords to develop their own tenancy policies and practices. Whilst this is not a legislative requirement, it would support the Council s use of private sector accommodation in tackling any increase in homelessness. 12 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy 2013 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy

8 10. Affordable Rent (See Figure 3.) 11. Monitoring and Review 10.1 In 2010 the Government introduced a new type of affordable housing called Affordable Rent that acts as an alternative to social rented accommodation, to help fund new development. All Registered Providers who have entered into development contracts with the Homes and Communities Agency will be able to charge Affordable Rents, which can be set at up to 80% of market rents on new homes for new tenants at the point of letting Providers with these contracts in place are also able to introduce Affordable Rents on a proportion of their re-lets. The majority of new homes that receive Homes and Communities Agency grants will be let in this way. Local Authorities can continue to negotiate developing social rented housing on developments that do not receive Homes and Communities Agency funding. Significantly, tenants in properties let at Affordable Rents will be eligible for Local Housing Allowance, which is currently uncapped in the social housing sector What is Stafford Borough 10.4 The Council support the use of the Affordable Rent Programme by Registered Providers developing new homes in the Borough. Affordable Rents are set higher than social rents and the additional income can be used by Registered Providers to develop additional housing stock in the Borough. It is, however, essential that the affordable rents remain affordable and that Registered Providers ensure that the rents charged on affordable rented properties do not exceed the relevant Local Housing Allowance The Council anticipates that Affordable Rents in the Borough will fall below the Local Housing Allowance threshold and therefore will be affordable to all applicants on the Housing Register whether in receipt of benefits or working. The Council will only support Affordable Rent schemes where the level of rent is manageable for both those in receipt of benefits and those on a low (non-benefits) income How can Registered Providers 10.7 Registered Providers should discuss their plans with the Council prior to adopting an approach so that the benefits of creating affordable rents are balanced with the number of properties converted. Registered Providers should outline the extent of financial changes and how the funding can be allocated to local schemes to benefit the residents of the Borough Stafford Borough Council has a number of forums and meetings such as the Housing Association Liaison Group and the Homelessness Forum that are well represented by a wide range of partner agencies. Various meetings can be used to facilitate a comprehensive yet focused review of the Tenancy Strategy with input from key stakeholders Additionally the Council will review the Strategy on a regular basis alongside the review of the Choice Based Lettings Policy. Contact Details Enquiries on the Tenancy Strategy should be addressed to: Stephen Ward Housing Strategy and Research Officer e. t John Fraser Health and Housing Services Group Manager e. t Figure 3: Average Rent Levels in Stafford Borough 2011/2012 Source (Hometrack) per week Average Market Rent Average Social Rent Estimated Affordable Rent 14 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy 2013 Stafford Borough Council Tenancy Strategy 2013

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