Purpose and Priorities
The Housing Service provides a broad range of services aimed at improving outcomes for residents and communities within East Dunbartonshire. A number of stakeholders are involved in the design and delivery of services, including tenants and residents, Registered Social Landlords, other Council departments and The Scottish Government.
The Local Housing Strategy provides the strategic direction, together with policies and plans to enable the Council and its partners to invest in the delivery of high quality affordable housing and housing related services, across all housing tenures, to meet identified need within the locality. The LHS complements East Dunbartonshire Council’s Local Outcomes Improvement Plan 2017-2027, particularly in relation to the local outcome priorities below:
- East Dunbartonshire has a sustainable and resilient economy with busy town and village centres, a growing business base, and is an attractive place in which to visit and invest
- Our children and young people are safe, healthy and ready to learn
- East Dunbartonshire is a safe place in which to live, work and visit
- Our People experience good physical and mental health and wellbeing with access to a quality built and natural environment in which to lead healthier and more active lifestyles
- Our older population and more vulnerable citizens are supported to maintain their independence and enjoy a high quality of life, and they, their families and carers, benefit from effective care and support services
The service will continue to lead on new house building, provide an effective housing management service along with an efficient Capital investment programme, to improve the quality of housing available to customers.
The service is faced with various challenges and opportunities over the next three years and the key strategic priorities are summarised as follows:
- Providing an efficient and effective Housing Management service, assisting tenants and mitigating the impact of Welfare Reforms, where possible
- Increasing the supply of quality affordable housing and meeting housing needs
- Meeting the requirements set out in the Scottish Social Housing Charter and ensuring continuous improvement in housing service delivery
- Preventing and alleviating homelessness while also providing a Housing Options Service. Progressing the Scottish Government’s Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan through reducing homelessness along with minimising the length of time households spend on our homelessness waiting list and living in temporary accommodation
- Improving the quality of housing conditions, both in the public and private sector
- The evidence base utilised by housing to achieve the above includes:
- Tenant feedback via annual surveys, settling in questionnaires, tenant participation forums as well as directly from tenant and resident groups
- Commissioned Research into the housing need for particular groups
- Gathering of information for the Annual Return on the Charter
- Housing legislation in Scotland relating to the regulation of social rented and private sector housing
The Covid 19 pandemic continues to affect working procedures throughout the Housing Service. The majority of the Housing Team continue to work from home, however a hybrid model is being developed to allow a phased return to offices.
Work of the Teams
Homelessness & Prevention
Homelessness & Prevention provides services to people who are experiencing homelessness, or, who are threatened with homelessness. They are committed to ensuring that customers receive a high quality and responsive service. The service works to ensure that homeless people, who can often be vulnerable or have complex needs, get prompt and easy access to housing options, as well as help and advice; are provided with suitable, good quality temporary or emergency accommodation when this is needed; and are offered continuing support, including housing support, to help them resettle into permanent accommodation. The team is responsible for overseeing the prevention/housing options agenda.
The Team is also responsible for the management and monitoring of Landlord Registration, Houses of Multiple Occupation, Short-term let Licences and mortgage to rent applications.
Following a mini review of the service, the Council's Project 101 Youth Service and Housing Officers (Temporary Accommodation) were also moved to the Homelessness Team during 2021/22.
Strategy, Performance & Systems
Strategy, Performance & Systems which incorporates; the Local Housing Strategy, Assessing Tenant Satisfaction, Housing Need and Demand Assessments, Monitoring Housing Performance, Producing the Annual Return on Charter and Maintaining an efficient, modern Housing Management System.
The team focus on policy and procedure reviews in conjunction with tenant consultation to ensure a robust and effective housing service. The performance of the service, is monitored on a monthly basis and benchmarked against other Local Authorities in Scotland to establish any areas where performance needs to improve. Liaison with other Local Authorities ensures all good practise is shared and underperforming areas are improved.
System development is key to providing a robust Housing Service and the systems team strive to maintain an efficient housing management system, plugging any gaps and developing modules to assist with any changes in legislation. The next year will be crucial within the systems team, as they work towards the implementation of a new Housing Management System purchased in January 2022.
Housing Operations work across all areas of East Dunbartonshire. The Operations team focus on working with tenants to maximise rent collection and arrears prevention, minimise void turnover and lost rental income, while delivering effective housing estate management, anti-social behaviour, neighbour nuisance and tenancy dispute services. The service also works with tenants to allow them to have their say, while also offering opportunities to get involved via Tenant Participation. The Service works in partnership with other agencies, to ensure that tenants and customers live in well-maintained neighbourhoods, where they feel safe. The Service works with others to ensure that people looking for housing, get information that helps them make informed choices and decisions, about the range of housing options available to them. The Housing Service ensures that residents are aware of the implications of Welfare Reforms through newsletters.
The Housing team are committed to ensuring continuous improvement in the housing service, through the achievement of performance standards and business/improvement planning.
The Service works closely with all Community Planning Partners and contributes to the Council’s corporate objectives set out within the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan 2017-2027 by:
- Providing an efficient and effective Housing Management service, working in partnership with other agencies to ensure that tenants and other customers live in well maintained neighbourhoods where they feel safe.
- Increasing the supply of affordable housing and meeting housing needs by implementing the Local Housing Strategy and Strategic Housing Investment Plan, working in partnership with The Scottish Government to maximise grant funded income to the council and registered social landlords.
- Meeting the requirements set out in the Scottish Social Housing Charter and ensuring continuous improvement in the delivery of the housing service.
- Preventing and alleviating homelessness to ensure that homeless people get prompt and easy access to housing options, help and advice; are provided with suitable, good quality temporary or emergency accommodation when this is needed; and are offered continuing support to help them resettle into permanent accommodation.
- Improving housing quality in both the public and private sector, by investing in and delivering effective maintenance programmes to take account of housing quality and home safety needs; along with implementing the Council’s Scheme of Assistance to ensure improvement in the quality of private sector housing.
The introduction of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 has implications for the housing service. The Act has allowed for some local flexibility, better use of social housing, tackling anti-social behaviour, protection for tenants and it abolished the Right to Buy back in 2017. The Act also introduced legislation specific to private sector housing, including a new housing tribunal that acts as a specialist decision maker for disputes in the private rented sector (PRS).
Key Improvement Actions for 2022-2023
- Void rent loss –The Void rent loss target has not been met in the past 3 years due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and the backlog this created. This should no longer be an issue going forward as the void backlog is now cleared and performance has significantly improved in 22/23.
- Rent arrears – Rent arrears remain high due to financial difficulties arising for tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic period. Temporary legislation within the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, protected tenants from eviction during that period, with the Housing Service resuming legal action against tenants in December 2021 regarding high and increasing rent arrears, after the eviction ban was removed. In October 2022, the Scottish Government introduced a moratorium on evictions within the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Act 2022. When this was introduced, it meant tenants could not be evicted for rent arrears if they are below £2,250, with this still remaining in place but with the Scottish Government reviewing this legislation on a six monthly basis. The maximisation of rental income continues to be a priority for the Housing Service, with tenants being offered advice and support in relation to ensuring that their rent is paid and arrears are reduced. Appropriate arrears action is however taken against tenants who do not pay, which can include eviction should their arrears continue to increase and are also above the threshold.
- Relet timescales –The relet timescales were not being met last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and the backlog this created. This should no longer be an issue going forward as the void backlog is now cleared and performance has significantly improved in 22/23.
- Number of homeless cases waiting more than three years – Rapid Rehousing has helped to minimise the length of time homeless applicants have to wait for permanent accommodation but there are still a few families, who have waited over three years.
- Update the current Integrated Housing Management System – Saffron has become outdated in relation to the statistical data requirements, requested from the Scottish Government and in relation to the automated system requirements of the Housing Service.