To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public
A public question was received from Emily Wilson:
Q1: There is growing concern among residents about under regulated and unregulated HMOs in Broomhill and Sharrow Vale ward pushing the area towards, in the word of one resident, "slum-like conditions." Currently half of the 1900 HMOs in Sheffield are in Broomhill and Sharrow Vale ward.
Issues include mould and damp leading to health issues and large amounts of rubbish and refuse and inadequate parking in areas with high numbers of HMOs. Residents were particular concerned about a recent case where a HMO was approved in an area with an Article 4 directive in place. The property claimed it had been operating as a HMO for 10 years with no sanctions applied which meant that the Article 4 directive in place in the area didn't apply. Some of the residents are sceptical that it actually was operating as a HMO for 10 years. It illustrates the need for tighter regulation in order for existing measures to be effective and the need for a more holistic plan/approach.
Q2: The photo below shows a child's bedding bought new one week ago. This is from a flat on Exeter Drive where the family are all sleeping in one room because the mould and damp is so severe. The child is up at night with breathing issues the GP has said are related to the mould. Although a particularly awful case, it is only one of many cases of damp and mould in these buildings. On inspection nearly every flat has mould and damp on the outside wall, around the window. Residents believe there is an issue with the building itself that is leading to the issues.
The Chair responded with:
A1: Over the past 5 years the Councils private housing standards responded to just under 2000 complaints across all property types and of these, 8% related to properties in Broom and Sharrowvale wards. We know that is an area where there is a lot of HMO’s and that is why there is the article for direction. The councils planning committee approved another house in multiple occupation despite a number of rejections from residents. You are right to show that there is a problem. The green party are doing quite a bit of work to ensure the neighbourhood plan is followed.
Sheffield Council’s Private Sector Housing Team regulates the private sector to ensure it offers safe and well-managed accommodation to protect the health, safety and welfare of tenants.
We are responsible for the delivery of mandatory HMO licensing. In order for a HMO to fall within the mandatory licensing scheme they have to be occupied by 5 or more people, forming 2 or more households which share facilities such as kitchen / bathroom. HMOs occupied by less than 5 people are not required to have a licence but must still abide to management and fire safety standards.
Each licenced HMO in Sheffield are inspected to ensure conditions of licencing are being met. Where they do not, we take robust enforcement action. Over £360K of fines in relation to HMO related offences have been issued over the last 5 years sending an important message to non-compliant landlords that they will be punished.
Any tenant that is experiencing property condition and / or management issues, including damp and mould, should contact Private Housing Standards directly on 0114 2734680 or by email at email@example.com and we will investigate this.
A2: The Council have set up the Damp and Mould Task Group to deliver a strategic response to how it will deal with all matters relating to damp and mould. The GP consortia are represented on the Damp and Mould Task Group and it is developing a single portal from which all GP’s can raise concerns where patients in council housing have expressed health concerns relating to their property.
For this particular property if we had the address the service would commission a same day inspection to assess the root cause of the damp and mould and to facilitate appropriate remedial action. Should the tenant need to be temporarily rehoused during this work then this will happen as a priority, in consultation with the tenants.
Also, the council is working on improving its stock condition data across all of its stock, including Exeter Drive. This work will determine what works are required to the fabric of the building to reduce the impacts of damp and mould and will influence the priorities within the 5 Year Capital Programme. In the meantime, the Housing and Neighbourhood Service will communicate with all tenants on Exeter Drive on how to report issues relating to damp and mould.
If Damp and Mould issues are reported through the correct channels then the team should be able to respond pretty quickly and I hope this is reassuring.
A public question was received from James Martin:
The Access Liaison Group preparations for completing the Local Plan consultation identified a two low a provision percentage for wheelchair adaptable/accessible category 3 housing. Requests have been made for information on existing housing stock that is adapted for wheelchair and severely mobility impaired people where level access is essential. Further to this, it is important that supply of accommodation is spread across the city to ensure people can remain local to their support network of family/friends, again a request for information on known strategic gaps in provision was requested
The lack of any response given an extended time period suggests that in common with several of the papers in front of you today that there is an insufficient grasp of existing provision of wheelchair adapted accommodation across sectors and also no strategic plan to ensure enough provision across the city in line with 20-minute neighbourhood plans.
Can the committee ensure that all relevant departments are motivated to track and report existing wheelchair accessible housing stock and identify the provision in terms of geography spread across the city? In my view it is important that this progresses to completion ready for the new political years housing committees.
Q2: Regarding the homelessness prevention strategy action plan (Item 9): It is notable that no tracking of need and provision for disabled people despite mentioning other characteristics. Further, we have also noted despite referencing working between different housing teams that a highly disconnected and unsupportive approach which causes distress and does not indicate either a well managed wholistic system or that good outcomes can be achieved for more complex needs. Please can the committee ensure that his and the wider gaps in consideration are addressed?
Q3: Continuing from the previous question: Item 8 at Disability Sheffield we know that there is evidence for certain causes of homelessness that there is a lack of suitable provision for wheelchair users – particularly in emergency provision. again noting the lack of any reference to accessible accommodation procurement I am doubtful that the anticipator part of the Public Sector Equality Duty features in the definition of the proposal. Considering the efficiencies sought it is vital that the planning and procurement ensures that accessible accommodation is part of the mix across a selection of needs e.g. accessible accommodation might be required by more than just single people and may include dependents. Please can the committee ensure that there is a clear reflection of the need for accessible accommodation within the policy and monitor this after it is delegated to officers?
A1. While information is available as to which properties have been adapted for mobility issues, and that rehousing decisions are considered based on individual need and location of the property, there is a need to develop a full and accessible adaptations register. Due to the interdependencies of this work and the development of the Place Systems Review, work to develop an Adapted Housing Register will commence in 2023/24 but will not be completed until 2024/25.
A2: Our work to address inequality will include analysis of need for and provision for people with disabilities. This is really important as there is a disproportionate risk and impact of homelessness. This will be undertaken collaboratively across SCC and its partners. We intend to co-produce any service redesigns or new developments with people with lived experience and would welcome the inclusion of Disability Sheffield in this and to join our Homelessness Prevention Forum. It is clearly set out in the Homelessness Prevention Strategy and Action plan that we do need to improve system wide barriers to good experience and outcomes for people with more complex needs – this applies to both within housing services and with other relevant services for example health and care. Again, we intend to review pathways and working practice and would welcome the involvement of Disability Sheffield.
A3: The Action Plan references the need to expand housing options that are suitable for both emergency housing and longer term housing that is suitable to meet the needs of people at risk of homelessness or who are homeless. Each new development that is delivered will be subject to a full business case and specification that will address requirements including accessible accommodation for all members of the household.