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Reflections on meeting our housing challenges

Date: Tuesday 11 June
Author: Councillor Liz Jaeger
TitleDeputy Leader and Vice-chair of Adult Social Services, Health and Housing Service Committee

As we move through the first quarter of the new financial year, it is the time that councillors look back at what was, and wasn’t, achieved by the Council in the previous year.

One ‘key performance indicator’ that stands out for me is the number of homeless cases prevented. Thanks to the efforts of our housing officers, and new obligations under the Homelessness Reduction Act, many more households at risk of becoming homeless have avoided being left with nowhere to live.

In the context of continuing and severe housing supply problems, this is a welcome achievement, reached in part by introducing different ways of working.

New ways of doing things are key to unlocking many problems, not least housing supply problems. We have good reason locally to hope that progress will be made and more affordable homes delivered by, for example, new methods of construction, new partnerships, and new ways of working with existing partners. The Council will do what it can to help housing associations deliver more affordable housing in this borough including through use of its own resources.

Meanwhile we can look to be doing more with what we’ve got.

One example is how we must work with social landlords to help address the shortage of larger affordable family homes and the chronic overcrowding that exists in some properties. The Council has a budget line to help fund extensions – upwards, sideways, to the rear, whatever works. We will be contacting housing associations once again to offer funding and would urge Richmond residents to contact us if they have an example of where our funding could help to extend or convert a property.

Another example of making the most of what we’ve got is the sponsored moves programme. This is a scheme that helps under-occupiers, often older households, to downsize to a more suitable property, and in so doing free up a larger home for a family on our housing waiting list.

The sponsored moves scheme was among several helpful initiatives being showcased at the Council’s housing advice day last week held at York House.

I popped by late afternoon to chat with the housing team who were on hand to explain these schemes, and who told me there had been a good level of interest. As well as sponsored moves, there was advice on the rent deposit scheme, and also about moving out of London for those who are looking to live in the country or by the sea.

One learning for me was that the Council can help private sector landlords with suitable insurance. Useful to know, given the casework I have seen around the difficulty for tenants needing to find rent guarantors.

If you missed the event last week, information can be found on the Council’s website about this, and many other housing issues.

Updated: 24 March 2021