Local Lettings Plan
Decision Maker: Cabinet Member Housing
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: Yes
To approve the Local Lettings Plan.
To approve the Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF) Local lettings Plan for publication.
Reasons for the decision:
To complement and support the implementation of the Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF) Cabinet decision, dated 23/01/2023, officers have produced a LAHF Local Lettings Plan to direct the allocations process underpinning the provision of 21 affordable homes assisted by £2.36m of grant funding secured from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities through the LAHF. Of these 21 properties, 1 x 4 bedroom home will be ring-fenced exclusively for households living in ‘bridging accommodation’ (e.g. hotel accommodation provided in the UK by the Home Office). The remaining 20 x properties secured through the LAHF will be allocated in accordance with Section 3.3 of the Local Lettings Plan.
The primary objective of this Local Lettings Plan is to facilitate Ukrainians fleeing from the war in Ukraine and Afghan nationals who have fled the occupation of Afghanistan to settle into local communities across Cheltenham, either within existing CBH stock, or within properties acquired through the LAHF. This Local Lettings Plan seeks to provide clarity and transparency to eligible applicants, DLUHC and CBC/CBH officers surrounding the prioritisation and allocation process surrounding the 21 x affordable homes provided through the LAHF.
For the avoidance of doubt, this Local Lettings Plan will only cover first lets for the remaining 20 x properties acquired through the LAHF (or sourced from CBC’s existing stock) and will automatically expire on 30/11/2023, (unless otherwise agreed in writing with DLUHC).
If, in exceptional circumstances, the Local Lettings Plan is not functioning as intended, the Council may seek to hold an early review (prior to the expiry of the Local Lettings Plan on 30/11/23), in consultation with appropriate representatives from DLUHC, to identify potential future actions related to the Local Lettings Plan.
Alternative options considered:
An alternative option considered was not producing a LAHF Local Lettings Plan.
In essence, proceeding by not producing a LAHF Local Lettings Plan would mean that CBC/CBH would need to allocate properties secured via the LAHF on the basis of priority need via the Homeseeker Plus choice based lettings system, a process which would run in conflict with the Government’s stated intentions within the LAHF funding prospectus.
Of equal significance, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Cheltenham Borough Council with DHLUC (which was an essential pre-requisite for securing the LAHF funding) required that the 21 LAHF funded properties (or homes sourced from existing CBC/CBH stock) were ring-fenced until 30th November 2023 for the Ukrainian and Afghan cohorts through eligible Government schemes. It is therefore imperative that a Local Lettings Plan is established to ensure that Cheltenham Borough Council (and by extension, Cheltenham Borough Homes) comply with the terms of the grant funding provided by DLUHC, as set out within the LAHF MoU.
The justification for producing a Local Lettings Plan (rather than not producing a LLP) is cemented by current housing needs evidence indicating that the 21 properties sourced via the LAHF (or secured from current CBC/CBH stock) are likely to be oversubscribed owing to the significant current numbers of households within the various eligible Ukrainian and Afghan schemes. As set out by Section 3.1 (Exclusion Criteria), eligible Ukrainian or Afghan households would need to be eligible for and signed up to Homeseeker Plus in order to secure LAHF-sourced properties. On these grounds, it was strongly felt by CBC/CBH officers that the transparency and clarity provided by the Prioritisation Criteria (Section 3.3) within the Local Lettings Plan was essential to provide interested parties with reassurance that due process was being followed in accordance with the LAHF MoU.
Other reasons / organisations consulted
Key officers from CBH and District LA Partners and are generally supportive of the principle and detail provided within the LAHF Local Lettings Plan.
Feedback was received from District LA partners that Section 3.3 of the LAHF LLP should be amended to remove reference to offering any of the 21 x LAHF properties to other Gloucestershire Districts to assist with housing the Ukrainian or Afghan cohorts through the LAHF (once all other options for housing Ukrainian or Afghan cohorts within Cheltenham had been exhausted). District colleagues advised that this approach would complicate the allocations process found within Section 3.3, and, accordingly, this section of the Local Lettings Plan has been removed. Finally, CBH officers suggested that additional clarification was required to confirm that the 20 x LAHF sourced homes will be directly matched to eligible applicants, rather than being advertised through Homeseeker Plus. In light of this feedback, the LAHF Local Lettings Plan has been updated to add this additional clarifying information around direct-matching for units sourced through the LAHF.
The draft Lettings Plan has been agreed with key officers from CBC/CBH, with CBC officers also engaging with District Local Authority (LA) partners to gauge feedback on the CBC LAHF.
Contact: Martin Stacy, Housing Strategy and Partnerships Manager Email: [email protected].
Publication date: 17/05/2023
Date of decision: 17/05/2023
Effective from: 26/05/2023