CENTRAL BEDFORDSHIRE COUNCIL HOUSING
Kensworth Parish Council welcomed Tony Keaveney, Assistant Director of Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) Housing Service, to the November meeting to explain Council housing procedures.
Tony advised the supply of homes to rent is significantly fewer than the level of demand across Central Bedfordshire from households in need. Since October 2014, the main Allocation Policy has a strong requirement for a Local Connection to Central Bedfordshire. There is a three year prior residency requirement before a household may join the Register. This restriction is important in terms of meeting housing need across the Central Bedfordshire area. However people living outside of CBC but working within CBC or need to care for a family member within CBC can apply.
There are approx. 13,000 rented accommodations in total in CBC and only 1,400 lets over the last 2 year period. With only approx. 700 lets per annum, they will never meet the needs of people and the shortage of accommodation is very real and will only become more difficult. The temporary accommodation costs to deal with homeless in 2014 was approx. £50,000pa. In 2015 this rose to over £1 million on Bed and Breakfast accommodation, related to emergency accommodation for homeless families. Since 2012 they only supply fixed term tenancy agreements for a maximum 5 year period with a “first year introductory tenancy” and no longer offer “Lifetime tenancies”. There are however approx. 500-700 single older people living in 3 bed properties across Central Bedfordshire. The barrier is a shortage of accommodation suitable for older people to move to, especially within villages, however the recent development of Priory View in Dunstable has released 25 x 3 bed properties back into Central Bedfordshire.
CBC invest a great deal in supporting people to establish new tenancies and the introduction of “first year introductory tenancy” gives the Council leverage to manage problems when people do not behave. Tenant’s need to understand the consequences resulting from ASB, however CBC have legal obligations and need to focus on the outcome of each case individually. They can serve notice of seeking possession and take legal action, however solution may be to try to solve family issues and not move them and therefore good individual case work gives the best outcome. Tenants are not placed and have choice of areas in CBC to apply for accommodation, but reality is some apply for areas they don’t wish to be in.
If Kensworth Parish Council are keen to provide much needed affordable housing to meet the needs of people with a local connection to Kensworth village, then a Rural Exception Site (RES) proposal would provide this and would allow permission to build affordable housing on land outside of the development envelope, e.g. Green Belt. Occupation is limited to people with a strong local connection in line with Policy. There are a number of Housing Associations and other providers who could help to do this. Kensworth Neighbourhood Plan has highlighted land suitable for housing and has been submitted as part of the CBC Call for Sites process.
Councillors thanked Tony for coming to the meeting and answering questions raised from both Councillors and residents. The parish council also thank residents that attended the meeting and hope they found it useful. There clearly is a shortage of Council Housing across Central Bedfordshire and the parish council will investigate the suggestion of a Rural Exception Site within Kensworth.
Further details on CBC housing can be found on their website http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/housing/apply/bidding.aspx or call 0300 300 8302