Older persons housing strategy
This strategy has been developed against a challenging economic landscape, as well as a continuing programme of cuts in public spending; the council is having to respond to emerging legislation that impacts on other funding options councils have available.
The Housing and Planning Act 2016
Whilst this act doesn't directly relate to older peoples housing, it may well impact on the resources the council has available for improving existing or developing new homes for older people in the future. In order for the government to increase funding of the "Right to Buy" for housing association tenants, it requires that councils sell or pay a levy to keep the high-value empty stock that they own. This part of the policy is currently on hold, but is expected to be revisited in 2018.
It is also still not yet clear whether improved homes for older people are included in the housing stock that may have to be sold or a levy paid to enable the council to keep them
The Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016
This act requires councils and housing associations to reduce rents by 1% per annum for four years from April 2016. This measure again is likely to impact on the resources available for us and our partner registered providers (RPs) to develop new homes or invest in and redevelop its existing homes for older people.
Housing Related Support
Housing Related Support financed a number of services for older people including support to residents in sheltered housing, supported housing and some community alarm services. The funding for this borough was administered by Hertfordshire County Council, but it was withdrawn completely by the Government in 2014.
Welwyn Hatfield has worked innovatively through the Independent Living Team to mitigate against these cuts and make their services cost effective. They have branched out and marketed their support services to other Council's and external housing providers, such as B3 Living. They have also adapted their systems and technology to provide other services to external agencies such as emergency repairs reporting and lone worker systems and also negotiated charges with tenants for maintaining a level of housing support service.
Affordable Housing Programme Finance
Plans to consider options on the suitability of remodelling and refurbishing the councils existing older peoples accommodation are medium and longer term aspirations. They are finance dependent and the relevant planning and development process takes time.
The council has some funds available from the allowed amounts of retained Right to Buy Receipts to provide new homes, but it has relied historically on resources from its Housing Revenue Account or its partnerships with Registered Providers. Both are affected financially by the legislation set out in previous paragraphs, and could impact on the ability to progress.
We also have to be aware that there may be future Government changes in both regulations and funding abilities. These may impact on longer term proposals, but the council will continue to seek funding opportunities and link up its work with asset management and business plans to deliver older person housing over the longer term.
Challenges arising from resources
- Financing a more varied and improved housing offer for older people within our existing housing stock, when faced with potential cuts to social housing revenue. Innovative ways are going to be needed to make up loss of funds as well as keeping abreast of funding opportunities to progress
- Establishing partnerships for opportunities to develop new housing for older people when our partners are also faced with reduced funding and revenue
- Older people's housing has specialised requirements and need for communal facilities that other developments don't require and this may impact on scheme viability.