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Our housing and homelessness strategies, consultation on the allocation policy and more...

Tonight at Mayor & Cabinet (M&C), I presented a number of reports. Reports are often seen as mundane but the policies M&C approved tonight (subject to scrutiny) will make a real difference to people's lives. The first report of note is the approval of our Housing and Homeless strategies. These strategies have been out for consultation.

The Housing and Homelessness Strategies

The Housing Strategy is from 2020 to 2026 and details the main priorities that the council will action until 2026. This document is substantially reduced compared to the outgoing strategy to make our housing policies clearer.

The key priorities of the Strategy are:

1. Delivering the homes that Lewisham needs

2. Preventing homelessness and meeting housing need

3. Improving the quality, standard and safety of housing

4. Supporting our residents to live safe, independent and active lives

5. Strengthening communities and embracing diversity.

The Strategy is not just a paper report that sits on a virtual shelf, but is a living and breathing document that shows Lewisham playing its part in dealing with an unprecedented housing crisis and now the Covid-19 Pandemic. There are not enough genuinely affordable homes for those that need them. The cost of housing is too much, too devastating for too many people. Our staff are working tirelessly to deliver and support as many of our residents as they can.

Housing is one of the key foundations to a successful society. It is a right not a priviledge to be commodified at the expense of others. It, along with our NHS, education and employment is a key pillar to enable social mobility and equality of opportunity.

The other strategy is the Homeless and Rough Sleeping Strategy which is for a shorter period up to 2022 and again details the main priorities to action.

The key priorities for tackling homelessness are:

1. prevent homelessness at the earliest opportunity with the most appropriate level of support

2. support people to access a stable and secure home

3. support rough sleepers to enable access to services and accommodation

4. adapt and be agile in our service delivery to support residents impacted by COVID-19

5. strengthen partnership working.

Alongside our key priorities, we have developed five core principles. These principles will guide the direction of the service and support the actions we take to achieve our vision.

Firstly, homelessness cannot be prevented through housing alone. All of our partner agencies, and the community and voluntary sectors, have a role to play to successfully prevent homelessness.

Secondly, the earliest preventions are the most effective.

Thirdly, we will prioritise supporting residents into secure and sustainable accommodation over the use of insecure, temporary accommodation.

Fourthly, all services should place the individual at the centre and work together to support and resolve homelessness.

Finally, policy, service delivery and practice should be informed and shaped in a co-productive manner, developed with those with lived experience.

These two documents represent the work of our housing team at the Council. A big thank you to them.

Allocations Policy Consultation

The Allocation Policy sets out the Council’s priories relating to the allocation of social housing and the procedures and processes used by officers to implement those policies.

Alongside our key priorities, we have developed five core principles. These principles will guide the direction of the service and support the actions we take to achieve our vision ns Policy was issued in 2017, to amongst other things, address the rise of homelessness in Lewisham. Until recently, the Allocation Policy was supplemented by an Annual Lettings Plan, which has in particular, given significant priority to rehousing homeless households on the basis that there was an urgent and temporary need to prioritise this group.

Overtime, these kind of policies need to be updated as they are used by our officers on a day to day basis and allow our residents to scrutinise how as a council we make decisions.

The review of the AP will ensure that the priority banding scheme reflects the current and continuing high demand for social housing and placements in temporary accommodation.

There is a chronic shortage of new social homes. There are increasing numbers of households in need of larger family homes, but the availability of 3-bed and up, is finite. An example is there in 2019/20 there were 363 families in need of a 5-bed home but only one of its size was let. The crisis that we keep talking about is still with us, despite our best efforts at building and enabling more social homes.