New approved Housing Service Plan will help housing authority meet both affordable housing and private sector challenges

East Devon District Council’s Housing Review Board has made a series of decisions to improve housing opportunities for council tenants and anyone seeking good quality, affordable housing in the district. Housing is a high priority for the council, which is working hard to deliver its goal of providing a range of decent homes to meet the needs of everyone.

The Housing Review Board has approved an ambitious Housing Service Plan, which sets out the council’s aspirations for housing over the next year, as well as the likely challenges it will face as a housing authority.

Changes in April to homeless legislation is one of the major challenges that East Devon is preparing for. It will do this by increasing resources in the Housing Options team, as well as by improving the rent deposit/bond scheme to assist households access the private rented sector.

A further challenge is to ensure that council tenants are fully supported as the Government introduces Universal Credit in East Devon. The council is keen that tenants are able to claim the benefit they are entitled to, which will enable them to continue to pay their rent.

The Board also approved the budget for next year’s income and expenditure on council homes. This included finance for the acquisition of 26 new council homes to be let at affordable rents, and over £8 million to improve and maintain the council’s 4,300 council homes. Programmes for upgrading kitchens, bathrooms, electrics, etc. were agreed to ensure that council homes provide good quality accommodation for tenants. In addition, the council is ensuring that sufficient funds are provided for fire safety, gas and electrical checks, day to day repairs and the management of tenancies.

Over the past year (2017-2018), East Devon’s Housing Service has delivered a formidable number of achievements that link to the council’s ‘encouraging communities to be outstanding’ priority.

Highlights include:

  • The completion of an asbestos removal programme to improve fire safety standards
  • Using Right to Buy receipts to acquire 26 properties to add to our council housing stock
  • Maintained rent collection 99.8% of rent due
  • Supported and organised an ongoing series of community and tenants events
  • Maintained high levels of homeless prevention
  • Replaced two passenger lifts in East Devon’s two largest sheltered housing blocks of flats
  • Installed 130 new kitchens and 140 new bathrooms
  • Established a Honiton based mental health support group
  • Increased working with Countryside and StreetScene services
  • Organised ongoing mental health workshops in Sidmouth as part of a three year project
  • Planted community orchards in Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton and Axminster
  • Organised community festivals in Axminster, Littleham and Honiton
  • The Handyman Service has been strengthened to reach an increasing number of households.

Cllr Pauline Stott, Chair of the Housing Review Board said:

This is an exciting time for housing at East Devon as we have just agreed a plan and budget showing that we are investing more into housing in the district in order to achieve our ambitions for our residents. We are working closely with our tenants to deliver the housing service they desire with tenants on our Housing Review Board helping us make decisions that affect their homes. On the agenda at our last meeting we had reports on a wide range of matters that impact on tenants, including our arrangements to maintain tenants’ homes to a high standard and it is valuable to have tenant board members involved in decisions that affect them.

Cllr Jill Elson, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for Homes and Sustainable Communities said:

We have a proud record of investing in our housing stock for the benefit of our tenants and we make great efforts to ensure that tenants living in the private sector have suitable standards of accommodation. Listing our achievements has been a valuable exercise and is encouraging us to achieve even more in difficult circumstances in the year to come. We are continuously improving our housing services and it is my long held desire to increase our housing stock each year by acquiring or building new homes that can be let at affordable rents.

Our performance and benchmarking data included in the Housing Review Board agenda shows impressive levels of service delivery, but we are always striving to do better and will not rest on our laurels.

For further information about East Devon District Council’s housing policies and strategies, please visit the housing pages on the East Devon website