Report of the Director (Finance and Operations) provides details on the performance of the Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing Trust.
Report of the Director (Finance and Operations) and accompanying presentation detailed the performance of Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing Trust’s (the Trust) Voids Management Services and the work with the Tenant’s Panel.
The report also includes a summary of the performance in the key areas of the Trust’s activity up to the end of the first quarter 2016/17.
During the presentation and discussion the following points were made:-
· Members acknowledged that the Trust had performed extremely well and noted that the Trust was in the top quartile nationally rather than the first in the country.
· Members received reassurance that the Trust continually strived to improve its performance, with particular emphasis on how to improve performance without the loss of quality and would continue to do so.
· The number of voids was reducing over time and the number of re-lets had also fallen; it was now five percent of stock turnover. Research would be undertaken to establish the reason for the reduction.
· The Trust recouped the cost of major works to a property on a re-let by recharging the outgoing tenant, who were responsible.
· The average length of tenancy was between 17 and 18 years; which due to the different demographics was expected to change to between 15 and 25 years. Another factor affecting the average length of tenancy was the changes to the rules around being a ‘tenant for life’. From 2013 all tenancies would be reviewed after five years – other than sheltered housing tenants
· It acknowledged that the 20 days it took to turn around a property was very good and it was more difficult to carry out some types of work whilst the property was occupied. It was agreed that cost and time taken to turnaround a property were not significant.
· Consideration had been given to the taking of deposits from future tenants as some Council’s and housing associations do. However, it had been decided not to do so. The reason being was many of the Trust’s customers were often those in the most vulnerable financial position and would not be able to afford a deposit should they be asked for one.
· It was noted that there was a diminishing portfolio of stock and the Affordable Housing Programme stated that the level be kept at 9,000 properties and that proportionally the number of houses may fall.
· Members were of the view that the use of the term ‘social housing‘ was preferable to ‘affordable housing’ as it was a confusing term as ‘affordable’ was not necessarily affordable to the majority of the population.
· It was noted that a considerable amount of work had been done recently with the Tenants’ Panel, the scrutiny body of the Trust.
· The first piece of work considered by the Tenants’ Panel had been the scrutiny of the Welfare Garden Scheme, which would be considered by the Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel in due course.
· Members welcomed the work of the Tenants’ Panel, which had, until recently, appeared to have lost its way. It was emphasised that the Tenants’ Panel was a Council body and not a body of the Trust.
PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT REPORTING – QUARTER ONE
Members considered the details of the Performance Management Reporting – Quarter One as set out in Appendix C. During discussion the following points were made and clarified:-
· The Trust would use the information gathered to enable the Trust’s management to gain a better understanding into its customer profiles; the services provided and/or issues identified and to build on the findings.
· Members were provided with an explanation of the benefits of the PULSE survey which had replaced the STAR survey.
· The information and intelligence gathered by the PULSE survey was very different to that obtained by the STAR survey and it would be a missed opportunity if that intelligence was ignored.
· The information from STAR had less value as it was anonymous. PULSE enabled the Trust to contact respondents to obtain a better understanding of their responses and to take the necessary action. It enabled the Trust to prioritise attention to the customer’s needs.
· Feedback from respondents had been very positive.
· It would enable the Trust to build and understand its customers and their needs.
· PULSE was also able to provide an indication of other factors and of customers’ general satisfaction or dissatisfaction on other issues. There was a general dissatisfaction regarding the number of repairs; neighbourhood; overcrowding and whether the customer regretted the move. The Trust was able to ascertain the issues and to put them into perspective.
· The following response was made to the comment that the Trust appeared to be uncomfortable to confront those tenants in breach of their leases regarding certain issues around the Borough :-
Ø Despite the perception of the public the Trust took enforcement very seriously. However the Trust had to strike a balance with what was achievable in the Courts and take a pragmatic approach due to the resources and tools available to the Trust. The Trust took a prudent approach rather than shying away from enforcement.
Ø The Trust would continue to work towards changing these perceptions.
Ø The Trust needed to explore its culture of enforcement and to identify a proportionate tool to use effectively and efficiently to obtain its goals.
Ø It was notoriously difficult to enforce leases or tenancy agreements and demanded a considerable amount of resources to do so effectively.
Ø There were ten housing officers working on the Trust’s properties, which equated to 900 properties per patch compared with the private sector where the industry norm was around 200 properties, which was considered to be a large patch.
· Some households were never visited during the time of a tenancy this is often due to the resilience of some people who are able to live around a problem.
· The Trust continued to increase the number of multi-skilled operatives and it was good practice for those operatives to carry out unreported repairs when attending for a reported repair it they were able to do so on that visit. This would reduce the cost of two visits to the property.
· Previously a scheme had been trialled to carry out ‘MOTs’ on properties however the budget for this had run out as it had proved to be very expensive.
· From this quarter the Housing Trust had started to attend the performance clinics where by the Interim Managing Director met with the Chief Executive and Leader to explain any underperformance in any areas.
(1) That the work and findings of the Tenants’ Panel on the scrutiny of the Welfare Garden Scheme be presented a future meeting of the Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel.
(2) That the Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing Trust Monitoring report be noted.