Housing briefing note June 2021


It is now a full eight months since the new housing service was launched and whilst that time seems to have flown past we have used it to achieve so much together as a new team. In this latest in our series of regular briefings we share some of the developments in the service we are providing to all those who look to the council for their housing needs. 
Andy Blaszkowicz, Director - Housing and Operations

Tenant Engagement Strategy launch

Tenant engagement is key to our commitment to build a world-class housing service and a strategy explaining how we will support tenants and staff to deliver our vision has been agreed by councillors.

The strategy, which outlines how we will reduce barriers to engagement, how we will communicate with tenants and share our performance information, has followed the requirements of the Regulator of Social Housing's Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard.

The strategy's development has been supported by the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) and we have consulted with the Tenant and Leaseholder Board and with tenants who had expressed an interest in being involved in consultation.

Tenant Engagement Strategy (PDF, 418KB)

Performance update

Our performance against key targets at the end of the financial year (2020/21) included many highlights such as meeting landlord health and safety requirements, increasing income collection and improving private sector homes.

In some areas, for example, the time taken to turn round empty properties fell short of the expected and we have plans in place to make improvements.

The overall performance is particularly pleasing given that it was achieved against the backdrop of moving the service in-house from East Kent Housing (EKH) and the difficulties created by COVID-19.

The targets are those inherited from EKH but new F&HDC targets have been set for 2021/22. 

Read about our Housing Service Performance

Key elements of our performance as at 31 March 2021:

  • 100% of our properties had a valid Landlord Gas Safety Record (LGSR)
  • 100% of our blocks of flats had a Fire-risk Assessment (FRA). Actions to prevent and/or reduce risk are part of a planned programme of delivery, and continue to be monitored closely
  • 99% of all responsive repairs were completed on time in 2020/21, which exceeded the target (98%)
  • Spend on our capital programme has achieved 92.69% (£3.5M) against budget (£3.7M), enabling us to make good progress improving tenants' homes although slightly under target (95%)
  • Tenant rent arrears reduced to £321,234 (or 2.03%, and well within target of 4.55%) achieving the best performance on rent arrears since 2018. 
  •  We exceeded our yearly target for improving private sector homes (241 against target 150) and for bringing long-term empty properties back into use (78 against target 70).

New housing operations policies

We have produced six new policies for the housing operations service following consultation with tenants and the Tenant and Leaseholder Board.

  • The Tenancy Policy 
    Deals with access to housing, the type of tenancies we offer, tenancy sustainment, assignment, succession, mutual exchanges and grounds for possession.  This is a policy which is required by the Regulator in the Tenancy Standard.
  • The Housing Management Policy 
    Highlights the areas of work undertaken to manage our tenancies, estates and communal areas.
  • The Community Safety Policy 
    Covers the housing-related community safety service provided for our tenants with regard to anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, hate-related incidents and safeguarding. 
  • The Home Ownership Policy
    Deals with ensuring the accuracy and collection of service charges and how the we consult with leaseholders and other shared owners with regard to Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
  • The Shared Ownership Policy
    Sets out how we assess and administer our responsibility with regard to shared ownership properties.
  • The Right to Buy Policy
    Ensures that we administer all applications fairly, accurately and in accordance with the legislative timeframes.

Each of the policies is supported by a large number of operational procedures which sit beneath them.

Independent Living Review

We have appointed external consultants, Campbell Tickell, to carry out a review of our independent living service for older people with the aim of modernising the service and making it fit for purpose for the future.

Letters have been sent to tenants of our schemes explaining the review and together with our staff they will be involved throughout the review process which will take place over the next two months. A final report with proposals for the future is due to be presented to the council's Cabinet later this year.

Update on major works programme 2021/22

We have made significant achievements in major works by not only achieving 92.69% of our capital spend (see earlier performance update) at the end of 2020/21 but also reaching an above target 99.94% compliance for the government's Decent Homes standard.

This performance is one of the best ever recorded for the council, particularly as COVID-19 made access to some properties difficult and some contractors were furloughed for periods during the year.

Our 2021/22 programme shows the proposals for delivering our major works across the district which, subject to the usual validation surveys, includes new kitchens and bathrooms, replacement windows and doors, roof covering renewals, fire risk mitigation work and the re-decoration programme.

The stock condition survey has been awarded to property surveyors, Rapleys LLP, who will begin a four month survey from the middle of June. This comprehensive assessment of the condition of council stock will enable more accurate budget modelling and works programming for the years ahead.  It will also inform us of the work required in order to improve the energy rating of our housing stock as well as what will be required in order to help meet zero carbon targets.

Regulator of Social Housing progress update

Constructive monthly meetings continue to take place with the Regulator of Social Housing. The East Kent Audit Partnership is currently undertaking its follow-up to the direction of travel audit undertaken in December 2020.   It is expected the outcome of this audit will be positive and help determine the next steps with regard to regulation.

Neighbourhood inspections

Dates have been arranged for a series of inspections to be carried out in neighbourhoods across the district.

Residents and ward councillors are invited to join a housing team during a visit when staff will be checking on the condition of buildings and communal areas. It is also an opportunity for tenants to highlight positive changes in their neighbourhood or raise any concerns.

Find out more details, including dates of the inspections

Contact centre changes

More than 10,000 people have signed up for MyAccount, the council's online platform where registered users can easily see their council information such as bin collection dates and council tax information.

With this shift in the way people are contacting the council, the contact centre hours are changing to help those who are unable to use or access MyAccount.

The new opening hours from 1 June 2021 are 10am-4pm (telephone lines) and 10am-5pm (web chat service) on week days. The emergency out-of-hours phone line will not be affected by the changes.

For more information or feedback on any of the housing service work please contact housing.service@folkestone-hythe.gov.uk.