Agenda item

Housing Asset Management and Repairs Update (17:39)

To consider a report providing an update on Housing Asset Management and Repairs, incorporating Stock Condition Information, Housing Disrepairs, and Damp and Mould.


[Report to follow].


The committee considered a report introduced by the Director of Economy, Regeneration and Housing and the Head of Housing Delivery and Asset Management which provided an update on the council’s Housing Asset Management Plan and Repairs Policy. It was confirmed that the former was a live document, while the latter was due to be refreshed following engagement with residents.

Members discussed communications around disrepair claims. It was acknowledged that it was a challenge to counter misinformation around the repairs process, including from no-win no-fee legal practices targeting council tenants. While statistics demonstrated improvement in the repairs service, this was not always reflected in tenant feedback.The Building Services team was developing its outreach work, including more regular social media updates and a repairs roadshow. Members suggested expanding peer to peer-to-peer communications including through tenants’ organisations could also be useful. Trading Standards were investigating practices supplying inaccurate information, and it was suggested that it would be useful if ward councillors received the same information as was already being supplied to tenants through residents’ newsletters on this issue.

The committee considered the repair process for damp and mould. It was noted that a backlog of council properties with structural damp issues was being worked through, and that a dedicated surveyor from the Building Services team was now undertaking most assessments for damp and mould complaints, with external contractors providing additional expertise in cases with significant structural issues. In around 90% of assessments, no structural issues were identified; behavioural factors were often related to overcrowding or fuel poverty issues. Surveyor advice was generally welcomed by tenants and fuel vouchers were offered in certain cases. Awaab’s Law would introduce statutory timescales to investigate complaints and require that vulnerabilities were considered.A condition survey was being carried out on all council homes to gain a better understanding of the state of stock and inform future investment; this would also help identifydamp and mould issues before they became significant.

Members enquired about asset management objectives and the impact of new Regulator of Social Housing standards. There was already an improving picture on key measures of achievement, with two-thirds of council homes having EPC ratings of C or higher and more repairs being resolved on the first visit. Ambitions to ensure all council homes had a valid Electrical Inspection Certificate by 2028 and to improve the speed at which calls to the repairs service were answered were confirmed. Online repairs notifications were expected to reduce call volume and improve call waiting times from the present average of four minutes. In response to members’ questions about insulation officers agreed to provide more detail on the variance in recommendations referred to in Annex A to the report.

The committee discussed staffing and the use of contractors. It was noted that there was an ambition to be less reliant on these; while most repairs were done in-house, home modernisation and specialist work such as asbestos removal was carried out externally. Contractors were also used to cover areas of high demand or where there were recruitment challenges. It was noted that council staff performed the majority of out-of-hours repairs, although the standby policy presented an ongoing challenge as it was not included in staff contracts.

Members also enquired about funding for decarbonisation and retrofit work. It was confirmed that the council had generally been successful with grant funding applications. Different types of non-traditional housing stock, which was the most challenging to retrofit, were being targeted each time funding was secured; this would improve knowledge and allow work to be rolled out to similar houses to meet needs when funding was available. The Retrofit One-Stop-Shop York project had secured funding to develop a digital platform to provide retrofit advice, including green finance and incentives for private owners, and work was being done on green skills training bids to upskill staff and assist the regional market. The York and North Yorkshire Housing Partnership presented a significant opportunity to work together in bringing all social housing in the area up to EPC C rating by 2030.

The Executive Member for Housing, Planning and Safer Communities was in attendance and emphasised that the council was seeking to drive the move to net zero with as many properties as possible. His focus was on bringing homes that were in the worst condition up to a decent standard. He noted that retrofitting council homes crossed portfolio areas and invited the committee to consider the issue of retrofit priorities.

At the conclusion of the discussion, it was indicated that the Homelessness Resettlement Pathway report was likely to be ready in April and suggested that members consider under the Work Plan item whether to add this report to the committee’s agenda for its next meeting.

[Cllr Whitcroft left the meeting from 18:55-18:59; Cllr Rose left the meeting at 19:11; and Cllr Steels-Walshaw left the meeting from 19:23-19:25].



             i.                To note the Asset Management Plan, its ambitions and the challenges of balancing priorities and investment opportunities.

            ii.                To add the 2024/25 investment plan to the committee’s Work Plan, following the receipt of stock condition information later this year, to enable discussion around investment priorities, including a breakdown of budget forecast spending on contractors, apprenticeships, and an update on training to up-skill and cross-skill existing staff.


Reason:     To support a shared understanding around the challenges of maintaining and improving council homes and to inform a joined-up discussion around investment priorities in future years.


          iii.                To note the existing Repairs Policy.

          iv.                To request that the final draft Repairs Policy is brought back before Scrutiny before being considered by Executive.


Reason:     To ensure we develop a repairs policy which balances resource capacity with meeting the needs of our customers.


           v.                To note the updates regarding the stock condition survey work, disrepair claims, and updated damp and mould approach.

          vi.                To request that peer-to-peer communications be explored to help alleviate the issue of legal practices proactively contacting residents and encouraging them to make legal claims of disrepair.


Reason:     To ensure our council homes are safe, sustainable, affordable, and good quality.


        vii.                That members be provided with the information on no-win no-fee legal practices which was already being circulated to council tenants.


Reason:     To ensure that members remain informed on this issue and are able to provide accurate advice to residents.


       viii.                To request further information on the variance in loft insulation recommendations referred to in Annex A to the report.


Reason:     To keep members informed on this issue.


          ix.                That the Chair write to the Chair of the Corporate Services, Climate Change and Scrutiny Management Committee to enquire about the appropriate forum for scrutiny of the status of the standby policy.


Reason:     To ensure the standby policy is considered by Scrutiny in the appropriate forum.


[The meeting was adjourned from 19:30-19:41 for a comfort break and to give members time to read the Task and Finish Review Proposal Form which had been circulated by the Chair; Cllr Pavlovic left the meeting at this point].


Supporting documents:


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