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Westminster Housing Strategy 2007–2012

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Page 1: Westminster Housing Strategy - Westminster City Council

Westminster Housing Strategy2007–2012

Page 2: Westminster Housing Strategy - Westminster City Council
Page 3: Westminster Housing Strategy - Westminster City Council

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 1

Contentspage 2 Foreword

page 3 Part 1 – Context and overview

Developing our Housing StrategyStrategic contextConsultationEvidence of need and housing pressuresResourcing our Housing Strategy

page 16 Part 2 – Strategic priorities and action plan

Priority 1 – Increasing the supply of homesPriority 2 – Tackling high demand and improving housing advicePriority 3 – Improving neighbourhoods and quality of lifePriority 4 – Developing our role as a strategic housing authority

page 57 Appendices

Appendix 1 – Westminster Housing Commission recommendationsAppendix 2 – List of organisations consulted

Front cover images from left to right: 1. Monck Street Development 2. Housing Options Service advice centre, Frampton Street3. Tavistock Co-op Playground 4. Gloucester Terrace, Paddington

Increasing the supply ofhomes

Tackling high demand and improvinghousing advice

Improving neighbourhoods and qualityof life

Developing our role as a strategichousing authority

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2 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

ForewordWelcome to Westminster's new Housing Strategy, which sets out ourplans to deliver the housing of the future in central London: developingmore affordable homes, tackling homelessness and overcrowding,improving access to home-ownership, and improving the quality of lifeacross our many neighbourhoods.

Westminster is a popular place to live with acute demands on thelimited supply of housing available. At any one time there are over fivethousand households known to the council who are in some form ofhousing need.

Changes to government funding have limited the capacity for localauthorities to fund new and refurbished homes in response to local demands. This year, justone hundred new affordable homes will be made available in Westminster. This is notenough. It is well below the level we have been able to deliver in the recent past, and the citycouncil continues to work very hard to make sure the Government is aware of the demand forhousing in our communities.

Given these pressures, the Leader and I asked Lord Best to chair an independent HousingCommission, bringing together national experts to take a fresh look at our approach tohousing in Westminster.

Last September the Commission reported its findings. It praised the innovative approachadopted by the council and its housing partners, and made a number of recommendations tohelp us as a community make the most of the resources and space we have available to us.

Over recent months we have been working to translate the Commission’s expert thinking intoa strategy that can deliver the housing opportunities of the future.

We have worked hard to involve many people and organisations in compiling our newHousing Strategy. In particular, we are grateful to all the residents, housing associations,private sector landlords, voluntary and statutory sector partners and council colleagues whoseviews have helped to shape our plans.

Angela Harvey

Cabinet Member for Housing

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 3

Part 1 – Context and overview

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4 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Part 1 – Context and overview

Developing our Housing StrategyIn 2005 the city council embarked on a major housing policy review to develop a new long-term vision of how people’s housing needs and aspirations could be met, and how theprovision of housing could contribute to the economic and community vitality of Westminster.This was in response to widespread concern about the continuing decline in housingaffordability within Westminster, and the ever-increasing demands on social housing providersto meet the housing needs of a growing population.

To underpin this work the Leader of the Council, Sir Simon Milton, asked the Cabinet Memberfor Housing, Cllr Angela Harvey, to lead a Commission to look at ways to increase the supplyof housing at all levels in Westminster, drawing on external advice.

In September 2005 the Westminster Housing Commission, chaired by Lord Best, then Directorof the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, was launched. The Commission met a number of timesover the following year and received evidence from a range of housing experts, local residentsand community representatives. The Commission’s report was published in September 2006and included 10 key recommendations (plus over 30 others) for the city council, along withregional and national government, to consider. Appendix 1 contains a list of theCommission’s recommendations and how the city council plans to address them.

The Commission’s work, plus the results of consultation with residents and partnerorganisations, and analysis of extensive data sources that demonstrate housing need andpressures in Westminster, have led us to develop the following four priorities for the city’s newHousing Strategy:

• increasing the supply of homes

• tackling high demand and improving housing advice

• improving neighbourhoods and quality of life

• developing our role as a strategic housing authority

Within these four priorities, various activities are planned to address the severe housingpressures and quality of life issues that Westminster residents encounter.

Strategic contextCity council priorities

Our Housing Strategy supports the city council’s priorities for renewing the city, as set out inthe One City programme. One City is based on an aspiration for Westminster to be a citycharacterised by strong communities and excellent services. It is based on four themes of ‘atolerant city’, ‘customer focus’, ‘neighbourhoods’ and ‘active citizenship’ and four deliveryprogrammes: Order, Opportunity, Enterprise and Renewal.

The Housing Strategy aims to deliver against each of these programme areas. For example,by promoting orderly neighbourhoods in which people can feel safe and confident; by

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 5

maximising opportunities for our residents to make their own housing choices and prosperindependently of our direct support; by supporting local enterprise through developing ourown local labour and entrepreneurship programmes; and by renewing the physical fabric ofour housing stock.

‘Neighbourhoods’ is a key theme of One City. We have already made significant progress ontackling issues of deprivation at a neighbourhood level through our work with localpartnerships. One City aims to take this neighbourhood approach further, to allneighbourhoods in the city, by giving people a stronger voice at that level and their electedward councillors more influence over decision-making.

During 2006/07 the council achieved Level 3 of the Equality Standard for Local Government.We are aiming to achieve Level 5 (the highest) by 2010. We believe firmly that we need to domore than just comply with legislation and government requirements; there are clear benefitsto both our diverse community and to our organisation, that arise from making equality anddiversity considerations central to everything we do. Valuing diversity and promotingequalities is fundamental to providing excellent customer services.

Many of our services are delivered by contractors or in partnership with external organisations.The partners we work with are required to comply with the council’s equality and diversitypolicies as a minimum standard, and we monitor them to ensure they deliver.

Our plans for housing also sit within the priorities of the Westminster City Plan – theoverarching plan of the Westminster City Partnership. The plan aims to improve the quality oflife and well being of Westminster residents, visitors and businesses, and is supported by anumber of other strategies and plans including the Children and Young People’s Plan, theCrime and Disorder Reduction Strategy, the Programme for a Healthier Westminster, theEconomic Development Strategy, and Renewal Plans for each of the six Local Area RenewalPartnerships.

Delivery of the Westminster City Plan is supported by a Local Area Agreement (LAA), whichsets out key priorities and targets that are agreed between the Government and Westminster.Achievement of a number of particularly demanding targets brings a reward grant from theGovernment. Housing services will contribute to achieving targets within the LAA’s fourthemes: visible improvement on the street; community cohesion and engaged citizenship;customer-tailored services; and better life chances for all our citizens.

Our Housing Strategy is underpinned by more specific local strategies and plans, including:

• The Westminster Homelessness Strategy

• The Westminster Supporting People Strategy

• The Westminster Rough Sleeping Strategy

• The Mental Health Strategy for Housing and Related Support Services

• The Westminster Learning Disability Partnership Housing and Support Strategy for People with a Learning Disability

• The Westminster Older People: Housing & Care Strategy

• CityWest Homes Delivery Plan

• Housing Equality Action Plan

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6 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

National and regional priorities

National housing priorities are set out in the Government’s five-year plan for housing –Sustainable communities: Homes for all - which was published in January 2005. Key prioritiesare: to increase the supply of both affordable and market housing to better balance thesupply of, and demand for homes; the promotion of home ownership opportunities,particularly to social tenants and others on low to middle incomes; improving the quality ofhousing; encouraging the development of thriving, mixed communities; and reducing the highlevels of homelessness experienced throughout the country. All are key themes within ourown Housing Strategy.

In the past year the Government has instituted two major reviews of housing policy that mayinfluence the way we do business in the future. Again, many of the issues addressed bythese reviews are also central to our Housing Strategy.

The HHii ll llss RReevviieeww of the future roles of social housing reported in February 2007. This reviewasked a number of questions about how social housing can help to create genuinely mixedcommunities; how social mobility and employment opportunities can be encouraged; andhow social housing can be more responsive to changing needs and enable greatergeographical mobility. The review suggested that further debate is needed on many aspectsof social housing, particularly to support income mix within communities and offer a morevaried menu of housing options to existing and prospective tenants.

Much of what is suggested in the Hills Review was also strongly reflected in the WestminsterHousing Commission report of September 2006.

The CCaavvee RReevviieeww of the regulation of social housing was announced in December 2006.This review was asked to look at how the regulatory system for social housing could bereformed to better support tenants and drive up standards of housing provision, and toreduce burdens on social housing providers. It will consider the range of options available forthe regulation of social housing activities and will report to ministers with recommendations forchange in Summer 2007.

In October 2006 the Government released a WWhhiittee PPaappeerr ffoorr LLooccaall GGoovveerrnnmmeenntt with itsvision of “revitalised local authorities, working with their partners, to reshape public servicesaround the citizens and communities that use them.” Central to the Government’s plan isempowering citizens to influence how local services are planned and delivered to them; inother words, a bottom-up approach to planning and delivering services, which is very muchreflected in the council’s approach to neighbourhood working.

The Mayor of London now has responsibility for preparing the LLoonnddoonn HHoouussiinngg SSttrraatteeggyy,a draft of which will be published in 2007. Consultation to date suggests that the strategy willfocus on building more homes, particularly in Growth Areas such as the Thames Gateway andthus away from central areas like Westminster; re-thinking the provision of intermediatehousing; promoting London-wide choice for social tenants; and improving environmentalstandards.

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 7

Consultation The process of developing this strategy has involved widespread consultation with residents,partners and other stakeholders.

In December 2006 the Westminster Housing Network hosted a conference attended byapproximately 150 delegates from a range of partner organisations, and including a significantnumber of residents and their representatives. The findings of the Westminster HousingCommission, and the council’s emerging housing priorities were debated at this event.

In February 2007 we published a consultation draft of the Housing Strategy, and invitedcomments from all interested parties. This stage of consultation focused on six key areas ofpolicy that required further development before we decided on our approach:

• developing new housing on existing estates

• reviewing planning policies

• developing comprehensive housing advice services

• providing better options for families

• improving management and coordination among housing providers

• developing an intermediate housing market

Council officers also attended over 20 meetings and events to receive feedback on the draftplans set out in the consultation document.

We have received constructive and encouraging feedback about our approach, and there isbroad agreement with our priorities. More detail about the consultation responses is providedunder each of the priorities for action outlined in Part 2 of this strategy, and a list oforganisations consulted is provided at Appendix 2. We have placed a summary of issuesraised through the consultation process, and our response to them, on the council’s websiteat www.westminster.gov.uk/housing.

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8 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Evidence of need and housing pressuresOur Housing Strategy is also built on ongoing analysis of extensive data sources thatdemonstrate housing need and pressures that exist in Westminster. Research has beenundertaken to support the work of the Housing Commission, and in 2006 we updated our five-yearly Housing Needs Assessment, which provides a wealth of information about housingneeds and aspirations for the future. We are well placed to understand the workings ofWestminster’s housing market and its impacts.

Population characteristics; growth and change

According to the latest Mid Year Estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS),Westminster’s population was just under 245,000 people in 2005 – an increase of 20% overthe 2001 population estimate. Estimates of future population growth vary significantly. Whilethe Greater London Authority (GLA) projects there will be more than 250,000 people inWestminster in 2021, the ONS projects 319,000 by 2019: a difference of nearly 70,000 people.This uncertainty makes it difficult to plan accurately for the future, but what is clear is that theneed for additional housing will continue to grow.

According to the GLA projection, the number of children is set to rise by over a third, while thenumber of older people is expected to fall. While Westminster may be a young boroughcompared with England as a whole, there are still significant numbers of older people.Westminster has the second largest proportion of older people in inner London, and there areover 2,700 residents over 85 years of age.

The diversity of Westminster’s population is unique in England. Almost half our residents areWhite British, and another fifth White from outside the United Kingdom and Ireland. The othermain ethnic groups in the city, in descending order of size, are ‘other’, Black African, Irish,Black Caribbean, Indian and Chinese. There is also a significant Arab population, though theabsence of this as a Census category makes it difficult to profile this group comprehensively.The ethnicity of 10-19 year old residents is significantly different from the adult population, witha much higher proportion of Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) groups. White British residentscomprise only 37% of this age group.

Projected Change in Population200,000

180,000

160,000

140,000

120,000

100,000

80,000

60,000

40,000

20,000

0

2001

2021

Children (0-19) Adults (20-64) Older People (65+)

Num

ber

of p

eopl

e

Source: GLA projections made after 2003 Mid Year Estimates

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 9

It is estimated that about 17% of Westminster’s adult population, or 36,000 people, havesome form of disability, and that over 10,000 people have a severe disability. Nearly 10% ofhouseholds contain someone with a disability. At any one time, around one in six adults has amental health problem. There are high levels of psychiatric illness, associated largely withhigh levels of deprivation, homelessness, population mobility and a large refugee population.

Housing need

In 2006 we updated our Housing Needs Assessment and it showed that the need foraffordable housing had grown substantially since our last study in 2001. To remove the currentbacklog of households in need and to meet the housing need that will arise over the next fiveyears, it is estimated that we require an additional 5,600 affordable homes per annum. Our2001 assessment showed an annual shortfall of 2,285 affordable homes.

Two-thirds of housing need is for social rented homes, while the remainder is for ‘intermediate’market housing. The three most prevalent reasons for people being in housing need are thattheir current home is overcrowded, subject to disrepair, or unaffordable.

Housing affordability

Housing affordability in Westminster continues to worsen, as price rises outstrip growth inhousehold incomes. In 2006, lower quartile house prices were 12.3 times lower quartileincomes in Westminster. Considering the standard mortgage that is considered affordable isequivalent to 3.5 times household income, it is clear that Westminster properties are farbeyond the reach of low to middle income earners.

In December 2006, the average purchase price for a home in Westminster was just under£615,000, almost twice the average price in London as a whole. The lower quartile price (theprice generally considered to equate to an ‘entry level’ property for first time buyers) was£294,000. At this price, households would need an income of nearly £80,000 to be able topurchase a home.

London Westminster

Ratio of lower quartile prices to lower quartile incomes

14.00

12.00

10.00

8.00

6.00

4.00

2.00

0.00 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006

Source: DCLG Live Tables, Table 576

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10 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Research carried out for the Westminster Housing Commission found that there are manyhouseholds in Westminster that fall into the ‘intermediate market’ – households who do notmeet the criteria for social housing, but who cannot afford market priced housing in the city.Opportunities for finding affordable accommodation that meets their needs withinWestminster are severely limited.

Estimates of the scale of the intermediate market vary. Our latest Housing NeedsAssessment suggests that, of the households who are unable to resolve their housing needswithout financial assistance (5,500 per annum over the next five years), just over one-thirdcould afford to pay more than a social rent, and thus would fall into the intermediate market.Housing Commission research suggests that there are potentially 20,000 existing housholdsin Westminster that would benefit from some form of intermediate housing. Research carriedout for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that the number could be just over 15,500households. This number reduces to just under 9,500 if households are prepared to move toboroughs adjoining Westminster, as these areas are more affordable.

Tenure

Westminster has an unusual tenure structure when compared with other parts of London orthe rest of the country. Its location within the heart of London means the housing marketplays a very different role to many other areas. In common with most of inner London, rentedaccommodation is the dominant type of housing in Westminster. However, within the rentedsector, private renting accommodates a greater proportion of households than in the rest ofinner London. The proportion of home-owners in Westminster is about half that of England.

Deprivation

Westminster has some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country and is in factranked as the 9th most deprived London borough, which comes as a surprise to many. Whilemostly in the north of the city, there are also pockets of deprivation in the south. Deprivationis very closely correlated to the location of social housing. 21 of Westminster’s 120 SuperOutput Areas are among the 10% most deprived in England, while 42 are in the 20% mostdeprived.

Own outright Own with mortgage Shared ownership

Local Authority Rent RSL rent Private rent

Households by Tenure

England

Greater London

Inner London

Westminster

0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

Source: Census, 2001

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 11

Worklessness

A key factor contributing to the levels of deprivation in some Westminster neighbourhoods ishigh concentrations of unemployment and worklessness. Despite the strength ofWestminster’s economy, the city is in the top 20% of most disadvantaged local authorities foremployment deprivation in the country. Over 23,000 residents of working age in Westminsterhave no qualifications at all, inhibiting their ability to access employment.

We know that unemployment pockets are concentrated on our housing estates, within certainBME communities, the homeless, lone parents and people with physical and mentaldisabilities. Improving employability of our more disadvantaged residents is vital tobroadening the range of housing opportunities that are available to them.

Homelessness

Levels of statutory homelessness in Westminster have historically been very high – over 1,000households were accepted as homeless each year until 2005. In late 2005 we reshaped ourhousing assessment service to focus on preventing households from becoming homeless,and the success of this programme has led to a reduction in acceptances.

In 2006/07 we accepted a statutory duty to 664 households. The main causes ofhomelessness and reasons for acceptance were:

CCaauusseess

Dispute with parents/relatives/friends 20%Eviction – end of tenancy/lease 11%Poor housing conditions 9%Left institutional accommodation 9%Violent relationship breakdown 7%

RReeaassoonnssPregnant or with dependent children 57%Mental illness 19%Physical disability 8%Elderly 8%

At the end of March 2007 3,013 households were living in temporary accommodation,including 243 in bed & breakfast hotels. We are aiming to reduce the number of householdsin temporary accommodation to 1,574 by 2010.

Approximately 1,800 rough sleepers sleep on Westminster’s streets over the course of eachyear, and 65 new rough sleepers arrive on Westminster streets every month. On any givennight, the number of people sleeping on the streets varies between 100 and 150. We haveseen a downward trend in numbers recently and, at the last full count in March 2007, 112people were sleeping on the streets of Westminster. However, we have seen an increasingnumber of people from the newer European Union Accession states (also known as A8nationals) arrive in the city recently and, with no recourse to public funds, they often end upon our streets. 20 of the rough sleepers counted in March 2007 were from A8 countries.

Page 14: Westminster Housing Strategy - Westminster City Council

Overcrowding

Overcrowding is one of the most severe housing challenges we face in Westminster. TheCensus shows nearly 5,000 overcrowded households across all tenures and there are over870 council tenants on the transfer list who need a larger home. The vast majority (85%) needone additional bedroom, but there is a significant number – 130 households – who areseverely overcrowded and need two or more additional rooms.

While we are unsure of the full extent of overcrowding within the Registered Social Landlordssector, some of the major Registered Social Landlords operating in Westminster have beenable to provide us with data which shows there are at least another 880 households livingwithin this sector who need to move to a larger home. Nearly half of this demand is forhouseholds needing to move from two bedrooms into three, and another quarter who need tomove from one-bedroom into two-bedroom accommodation.

12 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Bed

sit t

o 1-

bed

Bed

sit t

o 2-

bed

1-be

d to

2-b

ed

1-be

d to

3-b

ed

1-be

d to

4-b

ed

2-be

d to

3-b

ed

2-be

d to

4-b

ed

2-be

d to

5+

-bed

3-be

d to

4-b

ed

3-be

d to

5+

-bed

4-be

d to

5+

-bed

Num

ber

of h

ouse

hold

s

Council tenants

RSL tenants

Move Required

Overcrowded households needing to move

450

400

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

Core Rough Sleepers

A8 Nationals

Rough Sleeping Counts, 2004-2007

250

200

150

100

50

0Apr Sep Nov Mar Jun Sep Nov Mar Sep Nov Mar

2004 2005 2006 2007

Num

ber

of r

oug

h sl

eep

ers

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 13

Housing conditions

In 2000 there were nearly 6,000 unfit dwellings in Westminster, mostly in the private sector.Since then, approximately 500 private sector properties have been made fit every year withour advice and assistance.

Over the past five years, all council rented dwellings have been brought up to the DecentHomes standard. We estimate that in the Registered Social Landlords sector, just over 70%of homes meet the Decent Homes standard. All our partner Registered Social Landlords areon target to meet the standard by 2010.

Although council rented homes in Westminster have some of the highest energy efficiencyratings in the country, a high proportion of tenants are in receipt of benefits and have very lowincomes. We estimate that approximately 4,000 households in CityWest Homes stock couldsuffer from fuel poverty. In addition, we estimate that 15,000 private sector and housingassociation households are at risk of fuel poverty.

Supply pressures

Pressures on the supply of housing in Westminster are severe. High land costs make it verydifficult to develop housing that is affordable to most residents and, as an already denselydeveloped urban area, there are few vacant sites available for new development. There isalso a high level of competition from other land uses, such as commercial and retail,particularly in the Central Activities Zone. Conservation areas cover three-quarters of the city,and there are over 10,000 listed buildings.

As is characteristic of a global city, Westminster has many homes that are not used bypermanent residents. We estimate that there are at least 10,000 second homes in the cityand 3,000 empty homes in the private sector, half of which have been empty for over sixmonths. There is evidence to suggest that some homes are purchased purely asinvestments, to gain from longer-term capital growth, and are left empty rather than rentedout. Thus, the housing stock available for permanent residents is significantly reduced.

Resourcing our Housing StrategyThe Housing Strategy will be taken forward under four key priority areas, each of which givesrise to different resourcing challenges. Only a limited amount of funding to achieve thestrategy’s aims falls directly within the council’s control. This means we need to secure arange of additional resources in collaboration with partner organisations such as RegisteredSocial Landlords and the voluntary sector. Our ability to lead and influence others is key, aswe are reliant on our network of partners to ensure our vision is delivered.

“As we explored the layers of complexity that undermine good intentions to solve housingproblems, we recognised the enormity of the problem facing a high-demand, inner Londonlocal authority such as Westminster. Market forces that are national – indeed global – have animpact upon the price and availability of accommodation here. Government policies that arebeyond the control of the council, as well as the policies of the Greater London Assembly, arecrucial in determining the quantity and quality of affordable housing. And decisions by privatesector landlords and investors can only be influenced to a limited extent by the local authorityitself.”Report of the Westminster Housing Commission

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14 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

The Housing Commission clearly recognised that our role as a strategic housing authorityrequires a careful balancing act. Many of Westminster’s housing pressures are driven byexternal factors, and invariably the resources to address these challenges are not directlyavailable to us.

We are constantly aware of emerging issues in our housing market and respond to these,often competing or lobbying for additional funds. With such a heavy reliance on externalresources, it is critical to maximise our leverage capability and have in place effectivestrategies to manage funding risks.

Increasing the supply of homes

In recent years we have made the most of opportunities for new affordable homes by linkingschemes secured through the council’s affordable housing planning policy with HousingCorporation investment and private finance raised by Registered Social Landlords. We havesecured funding of £51 million from the Housing Corporation toward our programme of 700new units over 2007-10, and have plans to invest over £20 million from our AffordableHousing Fund over the next three years.

Twice yearly we review our policy for supply and allocation of affordable housing. Thisapproach ensures we are optimising the use of existing housing assets in pursuit of ourstrategic housing objectives.

The Dolphin Square Charitable Foundation (DSCF) will invest over £80m to provide affordablehousing opportunities for Westminster residents. The Foundation was officially launched inJune 2007, with the objectives of supporting those in housing need and assisting workinghouseholds who contribute to the functioning of the city to access affordable homes.

Key to maintaining a supply of affordable housing will be attracting ongoing HousingCorporation funding. The Mayor now has powers to steer the use of London’s RegionalHousing Pot, the capital’s share of national housing resources. The Strategic HousingInvestment Plan will influence the type and location of housing schemes that receive fundingwithin London.

The review of our Housing Strategy, much influenced by the Westminster HousingCommission, has prompted us to look at new ways to maximise the supply of affordablehomes:

• we are reviewing how we can maximise opportunities from existing land assets, and have supported CityWest Homes to bid for Housing Corporation funds to deliver up to 600 new homes and a range of other improvements

• the city council and the DSCF will fund a 200-unit programme to convert temporary accommodation into permanent social rented homes, supported by £7 million from Government. We will look for additional funding to develop similar schemes

• we are working to bring forward a range of intermediate housing opportunities, including private sector models that can be delivered without public subsidy.

Tackling high demand and improving housing advice

We have been successful in using our Housing Options service to encourage alternativehousing options and prevent homelessness. However, over the coming year we will need toreview options for investing in broader housing advice services.

Our annual net revenue budget of approximately £44 million is dominated by the costs oftemporary accommodation and Housing Benefit administration. Government changes to the

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 15

Housing Benefit subsidy system from 2007/08 present a key risk area in delivery of theHousing Strategy, and careful budget management will be required to maintain ongoingefficiency.

We deliver Homelessness and Supporting People grant programmes of over £23.5m annually.These provide services to reduce rough sleeping and assist people with a range of housingand support needs.

Improving neighbourhoods and quality of life

We have been successful in securing a range of additional resources totalling over £4 millionto support our renewal objectives. Our work through the Westminster City Partnership hasenabled us to secure much of this funding. The Partnership’s strategic priorities will bereviewed in 2006/07, so we will need to make the case for housing into the future. At thesame time we will look for opportunities to mainstream existing projects that have proved asuccess, in order to sustain them beyond March 2008.

CityWest Homes is the city council’s Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO). Viathe ALMO model we have been successful in securing additional resources of more than£70m to invest in our housing stock, and we have now met our Decent Homes target, wellahead of the Government deadline. For 2007/08 CityWest Homes will oversee an operationalrevenue budget of £52m and a capital programme of £47.5m.

In conjunction with the review of our Housing Strategy we have recently undertaken a financialoption appraisal to assess options for continuing investment in and maintenance of thehousing stock. While this indicated that the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) was sustainablein the medium term, and potentially over a 30 year period (with ongoing efficiency savings),this was based on a number of assumptions regarding the Government funding regime. Theoutcome of the Government’s pilot programme to consider alternative approaches to HRAfinance may present further opportunities and this area will need to be kept under review.

Developing our role as a strategic housing authority

This priority is a test of our ability to lead, influence and to work in partnership. We need to beeffective in lobbying Government for freedoms and additional resources. The HousingDepartment consists of a small core team, so partnership working is central to deliveringhousing objectives. A partnership framework is provided by the Housing Network, a sub-group of the Westminster City Partnership.

Housing Associations are particularly important partners. The Housing Network is chaired bya Housing Association Chief Executive, and we will continue to work closely with leadingassociations to deliver strategic priorities.

We have played a strong role in the development of Westminster’s Local Area Agreement andthis has yielded access to considerable resources, particularly in support of our priorities toimprove the quality of life in key neighbourhoods. The focus on neighbourhoods and qualityof life issues will increase as we move to the next phase of Local Area Agreements, and thestrategic housing input will be critical to this.

Business planning

The Housing Strategy’s priorities are translated into action through the council’s businessplanning process. This is a robust, medium-term (current plus forward three-year period)planning process with annual reviews, to ensure resources are deployed to best effect. Theannual Housing Business Plan links our financial resources to a detailed schedule of targetsand actions, including those elements of the Housing Strategy that fall directly under theHousing Department’s control.

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16 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Part 2 – Strategic priorities and action plan

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Priority 1 Increasing the supply of homes• New housing supply

• Planning policy

• Making better use of existing housing stock

• Providing housing opportunities for the ‘intermediate market’

Priority 2 Tackling high demand and improving housing advice• Tackling homelessness

• Tackling overcrowding

• Housing advice and other housing options

• Rough sleeping

Priority 3 Improving neighbourhoods and quality of life• Promoting safe and sustainable neighbourhoods

• Improving neighbourhood management

• Improving opportunities for children and young people

• Supporting people within their communities

• Improving conditions in the private sector

• Going green

Priority 4 Developing our role as a strategic housing authority• Further developing our strategic role

• Moving our relationship with CityWest Homes to a new level

• Further developing local and regional partnerships

• Developing our relationship with private landlords

• Ongoing research and analysis

• Lobbying for change

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 17

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18 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 19

Priority 1 Increasing the supply of homes

Monck Street Development

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20 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Key drivers• expected growth: population could

reach 319,000 residents by 2019

• declining supply of social housing: only 106 new social lettings expected in 2007/08

• high levels of overcrowding: Census figures show nearly 5,000 households are overcrowded across all tenures

• over 3,000 empty properties, half of them empty for over six months

• access to affordable housing consistently ranks as a high priority for residents in the annual City Survey

• 20,000 Westminster households of working age cannot afford market prices,yet are not eligible for social housing.

What we plan to doNew housing supplyWithin Westminster there are few large sitesavailable for future development throughwhich we can rapidly increase the supply ofhomes. It is an already densely developedcity with a highly valued, historic urbanfabric and opportunities for furtherresidential development are largely limitedto redevelopment of existing residential orcommercial buildings or infill developmenton small, under-utilised spaces.

The London Plan sets a target for us todeliver a total of 680 additional homes(across all tenures) per year over the nextten years and we must do all we can toachieve this target and, if possible, exceedit. New homes will be required for alltenures to accommodate expectedpopulation growth.

Virtually all new affordable housing inWestminster is delivered through Section106 planning agreements with privatedevelopers as the cost of land precludesHousing Associations from competing fordevelopment sites. This means we areheavily reliant on the private sector, and therobustness of our planning policies, todeliver new affordable housing within thecity.

Priority 1 Increasing the supply of homes

Why this is a priority

“The most obvious way to ease shortages is to meet rather more of the pent-up demand

by simply building more homes.”

Report of the Westminster Housing Commissionn

The Westminster Housing Commission concluded that we would never be able toaccommodate everyone who would like to live in Westminster; the demand is just too great.But we must still ensure that we maximise the opportunities to build more homes and makethe most of the housing stock that is already here.

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Delivering new affordable housing

The Government subsidy regime makes itvery difficult to fund affordable housingschemes within the city. Despite being inpartnership with five other boroughs inNorth London, we forecast that just over100 new Housing Association homes will bedelivered for Westminster residents in2007/08, significantly less than in recentyears. We will be working to increase thisnumber in future years, and hope to havedeveloped 700 new homes in the citybetween 2007 and 2010. We also seek tomaximise access to developments in otherboroughs within our sub-region. It isestimated that Westminster will gain accessto approximately 30 new homes a year inthis way over the next three years.

Developing in Westminster is expensive, afact that the current housing funding regimefails adequately to recognise. We willtherefore continue to lobby Government toapply higher grant rates to Westminster,and to recognise that higher subsidies arerequired to provide more family-sizedhomes in central London, which areparticularly needed to address high levelsof overcrowding.

We will also continue to lobby forrecognition that high demand areas likeWestminster need access to the newhomes that are being developed in GrowthAreas. We firmly believe these homesshould be built for the benefit of allLondoners, not just residents of theboroughs in which they are located. But wewill need to market these new opportunitieswell to local residents, who are used tocentral London’s facilities and theopportunities that living in Westminsterprovides.

The independent Dolphin Square CharitableFoundation presents a new and uniqueopportunity to meet the housing needs ofWestminster residents, enhancing access to

affordable homes. The WestminsterHousing Commission targeted some of itsrecommendations at the Foundation, whichis already looking to align activity withHousing Strategy priorities, for examplethrough a new small grants regimelaunched in June 2007.

In addition to the affordable housingdeveloped through section 106 agreementswith private developers, we are keen toexplore other ways of delivering affordablehousing, especially that targeted at theintermediate market. We will be working inpartnership with providers who specialise inthis market to see what opportunities canbe created in Westminster.

Developing new housing on existingestates (Community Build)

The Westminster Housing Commissionrecommended that we look at opportunitiesto develop more homes on our existingestates, where densities are lower incomparison with surrounding areas andsometimes land and/or buildings are notwell utilised. The Commission advised alsothat we should consider the impact on thelocal environment and quality of life forexisting residents in areas where wepropose to increase housing densities.

By developing more homes within ourexisting housing stock we can improvehousing opportunities for current residents;building homes to meet the needs of localpeople, including properties for sharedownership and outright sale. We can alsopromote community cohesion andsustainability, by meeting local social andeconomic needs through the provision ofnew and enhanced facilities and services,and job and training opportunities. Newdevelopment can also enhancearchitectural and environmental quality incertain neighbourhoods.

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 21

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22 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Consultation carried out during our strategy development process was overwhelminglysupportive of this approach. The need for new homes was well recognised, but mostrespondents were keen to ensure that provision of community facilities, including goodquality open space, was integral to any new development.

Respondents were also of the view that new housing should be developed to addresslocal housing needs, particularly overcrowding, and that local lettings plans shouldprioritise local residents. Working with local communities and neighbourhoodmanagement teams at an early stage to identify needs and aspirations was seen as vitalto the process.

Housing Associations with stock in Westminster are actively looking for new housingopportunities within their own estates and are keen to link them with broader developmentplans for the city.

Community organisations were also keen to see that local facilities were provided, andthat those facilities were sustainable into the future through provision of revenue support.

Respondents also felt that development plans should be part of wider improvementschemes, so that existing estates could be brought up to the same standard as newhousing.

We have devised a set of principles that willbe applied to any proposals that are putforward under our Community Buildprogramme:

• Developments should be designed to meet local housing needs, ie an appropriate mix of unit sizes and tenures. Local lettings schemes should be considered wherever possible.

• Developments should look to deliver other facilities that meet broader local needs, such as childcare, training space,health facilities, improved community, play and sports facilities, or improvements to existing homes. Detailed local consultation should take place early to establish such broader community requirements.

• Deprivation and other social needs indicators (eg child densities) will need tobe taken into consideration when planning housing developments and provision of other community facilities, soas not to compound existing problems.

• Consideration should be given to who is best placed to manage the finished

housing. In most cases this is likely to be the council’s housing management provider, but this may not always be the case.

• High quality, sustainable, design principles should be used at all times.

• Schemes should enhance the local environment and townscape, perhaps by being delivered in conjunction with greening initiatives or schemes to improve communal/public space.

• Developments should be energy efficient.

Under Community Build we have identifiednine initial schemes and we will be workingwith partners to develop feasibility studiesfor new housing and to design otherimprovements to estates. These coulddeliver in excess of 600 units over thecoming years.

The Church Street Neighbourhood Forumhas identified through the consultationprocess a potential redevelopment site in itsarea and is working with a local architect todevelop some proposals.

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Work with local neighbourhoods to identify residents’ aspirations and 2007-12community needs, and develop proposals for creating approximately600 new homes on existing council estates

Work with Registered Social Landlords to deliver 700 new affordable 2007/08: 108 unitshomes in Westminster 2008/09: 88 units

2009/10: 506 units

Undertake a study of development capacity within Housing Association 2007/08estates to identify additional opportunities

Lobby to increase the resources available for affordable housing 2007-12development in Westminster, and for access to new units in Growth Areas

Work with CityWest Homes to secure Housing Corporation funding 2007/08for new development

Work with Dolphin Square Charitable Foundation to identify opportunities 2007-12to invest in provision of affordable housing for Westminster residents

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 23

CityWest Homes will begin a rollingprogramme of community investment plansfor each estate, initially focusing on estateswhere new housing may be built. Thedevelopment of the community plans willrequire extensive consultation andengagement with the residents and thewider communities to ensure theirrequirements are recognised in any futureplans. The plans will include details ofpotential investments in green spaces andcommunity facilities.

In 2007/08 CityWest Homes is bidding foraccess to the funding programmesoperated by the Housing Corporation. If

successful, this will bring an additionalavenue through which new affordablehousing might be developed within ourexisting estates.

The Westminster Housing Network is alsocommissioning a project funded throughour Neighbourhood Renewal Fund toidentify potential new housing opportunitieson sites owned by Housing Associations inWestminster. In responding to our HousingStrategy consultation, Housing Associationshave already identified a number of sites,so we are confident that potential for newdevelopment exists.

Planning policy

The planning system is a key enabler of ourobjective to increase housing supply in thecity. Westminster’s planning policies alreadyprioritise residential uses above others, andthey have delivered above the targets thathave been set for a number of years. But ifwe are to achieve greater gains in housing

supply, we will need the planning system todeliver even more.

Westminster’s affordable housing policy hasrecently been revised, reducing the thresholdat which an affordable housing contribution issought from 15 to 10 additional units. Therevised policy also requires that on sitesoutside the Central Activities Zone, the

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Review planning policies that have an impact on Consultation from mid-new housing provision 2007 onwards; policies to be

adopted by 2010 as part of LDF

Monitor housing policies to ensure annual targets Annual report published each are met December

24 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Respondents to our consultation had mixed views as to whether an affordable housingcontribution should be sought from all developments. Some were of the view that alldevelopments should contribute, while others were concerned about the effect on adevelopment’s viability, particularly for smaller schemes.

Regarding the split between social and intermediate housing, respondents favouredallocating about 70% of homes to social renting and the remaining 30% to intermediatehousing. It was felt that higher priority for affordable housing should be given to localpeople, particularly to people requiring transfers from existing social housing, plus low paidworkers also with a local connection. Lettings plans that promoted a mix of establishedand new residents were suggested.

Views on bedroom sizes were mixed, with some respondents saying that all tenures shouldhave the same mix of property sizes, while others felt that there needed to be more largehomes in social housing than in intermediate or private housing.

Respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of reducing the car parking requirement innew residential developments. Housing associations operating in other boroughs say theyhave had no problem letting units that have no parking, and have gained additional units inthe development as a result. Westminster’s transport links make this a very viable option.Car sharing schemes are now a common feature in private developments, and weresuggested as a way of reducing the need to provide car parking on-site.

affordable housing contribution be up to50% rather than the previous 30%. As thisis a very recent change, we are yet to seethe results in terms of additional supply onthe ground.

In preparing our new Local DevelopmentFramework (LDF), we will need to review ourhousing policies to ensure they deliver theoptimum number and mix of dwellings tomeet housing demand and future need,without sacrificing the quality of life andenvironment. Planning considerations willalso be very important as we develop ideasfor building more homes and at higherdensities on existing estates.

The Westminster Housing Commissionmade a number of specificrecommendations about how our planningpolicies could be changed, and these willbe considered as part of the review ofplanning policies that is currently underway.For example, we will be considering:whether an affordable housing contributionshould be required from all developmentsregardless of size, and the basis on whichthat contribution is sought; what the splitshould be between social and intermediatehousing on new developments; what ourcar parking requirements should be;whether we should specify the breakdownof unit sizes within developments; and whatour requirements or guidelines forenvironmental sustainability should be.

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 25

Making better use of existing housingstockTurning temporary accommodation intosettled homes

In Westminster there are over 2,000households living in temporaryaccommodation that is rented from privatesector landlords. While waiting to berehoused into permanent social housing,households are paying very high rents(predominantly through Housing Benefit)and many perceive that they are falling intothe ‘benefits trap’ that makes enteringemployment not worth their while financially.Current temporary accommodation rentscan be up to four times the equivalentsocial housing rent, and the workdisincentives arising from high rents are asignificant barrier to many householdsmoving on with their lives.

Westminster Council is therefore very keento find alternatives. To date we have beenunsuccessful in lobbying the Government tochange the funding regime for temporaryaccommodation. However, support hasbeen agreed for our bid to develop a“Temporary to Settled Homes” programmeto procure 200 homes in Westminster thatwill, over the next five years, becomepermanent social homes for temporaryaccommodation residents.

The council is investing its own resources inthis programme and is also working inpartnership with the Dolphin SquareCharitable Foundation to fund a portion ofthe homes. As part of this scheme we willbe exploring the possibility of offeringtenants equity shares so that they canbenefit from increases in property valuesjust as home-owners do. In addition, we

will be looking for further opportunities todevelop similar temporary to settled homesschemes.

Bringing empty properties back into use

Empty properties represent a substantialresource that could be used to house localfamilies. In Westminster, there are over1,500 properties that have been empty forlonger than six months and which aretherefore potential targets for action on ourpart. In 2006/07, we were successful inbringing 240 empty properties back intopermanent residential use.

Every means of persuasion andencouragement is used, includingCompulsory Purchase Orders, for thoseproperties in poor condition. Ourenforcement stance in Westminster is wellknown and therefore has a powerfuldeterrent effect for private owners. We willcontinue to develop this area of ourHousing Strategy, aiming to bring over 200properties back into residential use eachyear through offering a range of advice andassistance to property owners.

The Planning Department also has aproactive enforcement team which takesaction against owners who illegally use theirproperties for short-term letting – a verylucrative market in central London – whichagain takes housing stock away from useby permanent residents. At any one time,the team has over 1,000 short-term letcases under review and in 2006/07 204properties were brought back into long-termresidential use.

Long-term voids in social housing stock willalso be targeted for action over the comingyears.

CCoommmmiittmmeennttss MMii lleessttoonneess

Convert 200 units of Temporary Accommodation into 2010permanent social homes

Work with property owners to bring 200 empty properties 2007-12back into use each year

Work with housing providers to bring long-term vacant 2007-12properties back into use

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Review eligibility criteria to broaden access to intermediate housing 2007/08

Develop options for the city council to manage access 2007/08arrangements to intermediate housing

Develop an intermediate housing strategy 2008/09

Enhance options for social renters to access shared equity 2007-12and home ownership

Promote delivery of privately funded intermediate housing 2007-12

Deliver 1,000 intermediate housing opportunities in Westminster By 2011/12

26 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Providing housing opportunities for the‘intermediate market’

With the average price for a home inWestminster now £615,000, it is littlewonder that the cost of housing is one ofour residents’ chief concerns. Mosthouseholds aspire to own their own home,and the wealth gap between those whoown and those who rent continues to growas house prices rise.

A study carried out for the WestminsterHousing Commission estimated that nearly20,000 Westminster households fall into the‘intermediate market’. These are peoplewho would not meet assessment criteria forsocial rented housing, but cannot affordmarket priced housing in Westminster thatmeets their needs. While it is true thatsome of the households in this intermediatesector would be able to afford markethousing outside Westminster, and many doin fact choose to move, we are concernedabout the impact on sustainability of ourexisting communities if Westminsterbecomes a place where there are housingoptions for only the very rich and the verypoor.

The council is therefore keen to ensure thata greater range of housing choices existswithin the city for those who want to stayclose to their existing community, but aspireto a home of their own. We want to ensurethat ordinary working families can accesshousing that meets their needs.

Existing intermediate products arefragmented and access arrangements forcustomers are confusing – controlled byHomebuy Agents, ie Housing Associationsappointed by the Government to markethome ownership products over a wide areaof London. Too much emphasis over recentyears has been on providing homes forpriority public sector employees -keyworkers. To meet this client group’sperceived needs, and to fit within theconstraints of available funding, many newhomes have been small units, but thesehave proved relatively unattractive.

At the same time, options for existing socialtenants to buy locally have diminished, fewfamily-sized homes have been produced,and residents who contribute to their localcommunity but do jobs that do not fit withinGovernment criteria remain ineligible formany products and are often forced toleave the city.

We would like to see a far more developedintermediate housing market in Westminsterthat meets a broader range of residents’needs, and is far simpler for people toaccess. Over the coming years we willtherefore develop our approach to expandintermediate market provision, includingreviewing eligibility, and will work withproviders to develop housing products thatmeet people’s needs and aspirations.

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 27

Consultation carried out during our strategy development process was very supportive ofproposals to further develop the intermediate market in Westminster. It was seen as crucialto providing housing options for middle-income earners and local Westminster workers.Proposals to expand eligibility to a broader group of people were also supported, eitherthrough moving to affordability-based criteria, or by expanding current key workeremployment categories.

Most respondents supported the view that, even if a household could afford the full marketprice of a home outside Westminster, they should be assisted to stay in the city to increaseneighbourhood sustainability and social mix. However, respondents felt that thesehouseholds should not be prioritised over others in housing need.

Respondents suggested that we should be exploring the use of equity sharing products asa means of reducing costs to purchasers, particularly in higher cost areas, and that wecould work with employers to develop mixed use schemes for their workers.

Respondents also thought it was important to safeguard intermediate housing through, forexample, restrictions on staircasing or selling on the open market, so that it remained withinthe affordable housing sector and was not sold off as private housing.

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28 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–201228 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

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Priority 2Tackling high demand andimproving housing advice

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 29

Housing Options Service advice centre

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30 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Key drivers• growing population: Westminster could

have 319,000 residents by 2019 compared with 240,000 in 2005

• worsening affordability: the price of flats in the lowest quartile (cheapest 25% of properties) rose by 14.5% in the year to November 2006. Properties in the top quartile increased in price by only 1.8% over the same period

• limited potential for new housing: capacity for 680 new homes per year over the next 10 years

• high demand for social housing: over 3,000 households in temporary accommodation and a further 2,000 on the priority waiting list

• 12% of Westminster households are living in overcrowded conditions, including over 800 council tenants

• around 100 people sleep on the streets each night, and another 1,100 sleep in hostels.

What we plan to doTackling homelessness

Homelessness continues to be a seriousissue in Westminster. We have worked hardto improve the quality of temporaryaccommodation stock in the past fewyears, and homeless families are now livingin self-contained homes instead of bed andbreakfast hotels. Temporaryaccommodation is also now procured onrelatively long leases, minimising the needto move families so often. However, forsome this is still unsatisfactory as they arepaying very high rents or are living at adistance from friends and family or otherlocal services in Westminster.

In 2005 the Government introduced a targetto halve the number of households intemporary accommodation by 2010. InWestminster this means a reduction of over1,500 households, and we are on track tomeet this target. To achieve this, we havehad to reshape our homelessness servicesand develop a range of alternative housingoptions for those in danger of losing theirhomes.

Priority 2 Tackling high demand andimproving housing adviceWhy this is a priority

“The City of Westminster will never be able to accommodate all those who would like

to live within its boundaries… supply will never match demand for a home in

Westminster so managing demand is as important as increasing supply.”

Report of the Westminster Housing Commission

There are enough development opportunities to create nearly 700 extra homes per year overthe next 10 years for all tenures, but studies have shown that there is a need for over 5,000additional affordable homes each year to meet the needs of existing and new residents. Noteveryone who wants to live in Westminster actually needs to, and there are some people wholive here who would like the opportunity to move out. Helping people to explore a range ofhousing options through comprehensive and good quality advice is important.

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Since refocusing our Housing OptionsService to concentrate on preventinghomelessness in October 2005, we haveintervened to prevent nearly 400households from becoming homeless andneeding to be placed in temporaryaccommodation. We have been particularlysuccessful in developing schemes toprovide incentives and support for peopleto access accommodation in the privaterented sector, and our youth homelessnessschemes have been recognised as bestpractice in the field. We have alsointroduced a Sanctuary Scheme for victimsof domestic violence that provides securitymeasures to enable them to remain in theirown homes.

Homelessness prevention will continue tobe a focus for our services in the comingyears. In 2005/06 we entered into a LocalArea Agreement (LAA) with CentralGovernment to prevent 690 householdsfrom becoming homeless over the nextthree years.

One of the differentiating features ofWestminster’s homeless population is thehigh proportion of households that have no

local connection with the city. In 2005/06,17% of households Westminster acceptedas statutorily homeless had no localconnection, compared with a Londonaverage of only 2.5%. The WestminsterHousing Commission felt that this placedundue pressure on Westminster’sresources, and recommended that theGovernment should amend legislationgoverning homelessness responsibilities.

We will, therefore, be working with otherboroughs to lobby the Government toreview local connection rules, so thatresponsibilities are more equally shared,and people with greater connection to anarea have more chance of accessingaccommodation. This should mean thatmore homes in Westminster are available toaddress overcrowding and other localhousing needs.

We also have programmes to supportpeople while they are living in temporaryaccommodation. These are designedprimarily to ensure that residents haveinformation about and access to localservices, and to encourage independencethrough training and employment schemes.

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 31

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Deliver Local Area Agreement target to prevent 690 2007-10households from becoming homeless

Lobby Government to change local connection rules 2007/08

Deliver programmes to support homeless households 2007-09into training and employment, and seek funding to sustainexisting programmes into the future

Support temporary accommodation residents to access 2007-12appropriate support services in their local neighbourhoods

Reduce the number of households living in temporary Target of 1,574accommodation households living

in TA in 2010

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32 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Tackling overcrowding

In recent years we have been addressingthe issue of overcrowding among socialtenants in Westminster, and haveintroduced a number of schemes to tacklethe problem. We have made some inroads,but the number of overcrowded householdscontinues to rise so this will remain a highpriority in the coming years. We havedeveloped a comprehensive overcrowdingstrategy that aims to tackle the issue fromboth the supply and demand sides andhave included targets to reduceovercrowding within our Local AreaAgreement with Government.

While there are some very large householdsin the city that require particularly largedwellings, the overwhelming demand arisesfrom households who need to move from aone-bedroom dwelling into a two-bedroomproperty. Last year we focused ourattention on these households by givingthem higher priority for rehousing, but westill need to do more to minimise theincidence and negative impacts ofovercrowding.

We remain constrained by the physicallimitations of our housing stock. Nearly90% of homes in Westminster are flats, andonly one-fifth of council stock has three ormore bedrooms. To counter this, in thepast few years we have had a smallprogramme of conversions to create largerhomes – approximately five per year. Fromthis year we will be enhancing theprogramme significantly, assisted byadditional funding for which we successfullybid to the Government in 2006. We aim todeliver 20 conversions within council stockin 2007/08 and are undertaking feasibilitystudies to identify further potentialopportunities.

In 2007/08 we will begin the redevelopmentof a former residential care home in thesouth of the city, to provide 22 units ofmainly family-sized accommodationtargeted at local people.

We are also carrying out work to tackleunder-occupancy, freeing up larger homesfor those who really need them. Ourapproach includes:

• providing incentive payments to encourage households to move to a smaller home if they no longer need theirlarge family-sized home, or to assist them to move to a home outside Westminster or purchase a home in the private sector

• improving the information we have aboutoccupancy levels within social housing stock, so we can better target our programmes to the residents in need of assistance

• working with overcrowded and under-occupying households to consider alternative housing options, such as home ownership or private renting, to resolve their situation

• developing a service to support those residents who choose to move, providing assistance with all the practicalarrangements that make moving difficult to contemplate, and linking people into services in their new area

• working with Housing Associations to make better use of housing stock and to develop move-on options for under-occupying tenants.

The fact remains, however, thatovercrowding cannot be solved overnight.Many households will remain overcrowdedfor the foreseeable future, until a moresuitable home can be found. We havedeveloped a number of programmes tohelp families in this situation includingaccess to IT, family learning, homework andbreakfast clubs, and by creating safe andstructured activities for children and youngpeople outside the home.

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Identify opportunities for extension to and/or conversion Deliver 20 conversions withinof dwellings to create more family-sized homes CityWest Homes stock in

2007/08; and 30 in 2008/09

Redevelop Charlwood House to provide 20 2007-09family-sized units

Provide over 250 new 3+ bedroom affordable housing 2007-10units in new developments in Westminster

Trial a support service to help council tenants moving 2007/08under the Cash Incentive Scheme

Target under-occupiers and release 100 family-sized units 2007/08through cash incentive and assisted purchase schemes

Identify a funding model to sustain the overcrowded 2007/08families’ support service in the longer term

Work with Registered Social Landlords to develop 2007/08move-on options for under-occupying tenants

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 33

Housing advice and other housingoptions

Due to the pressures we face in providingenough social housing to meet need inWestminster, we must encourage people tolook at the full range of housingopportunities that exist, including thoseoutside Westminster, rather than assumethat social housing is the only option.Spending years in temporaryaccommodation while waiting for apermanent home is not always the bestsolution for a household in housing need.

In the coming years, as London’s GrowthAreas are developed, there will be manymore new homes available for Londonersand we must ensure that Westminsterresidents are able to make the most ofthese opportunities. We will be lobbying toensure that all London boroughs areentitled to some of these new homes sothat residents who choose to move can doso.

Greater mobility within the social housingsector is something we would like toencourage, and are disappointed that theGovernment’s plans for a national systemhave not been progressed. We will belobbying Government to ensure that newmobility schemes are developed as apriority.

Of course, encouraging people to considera wider range of housing options relies onthem being well informed about what thoseoptions are. The Westminster HousingCommission recommended that housingadvice services in the city needed to beimproved. Evidence received by theCommission showed that accessinghousing products could be bewildering.

The Hills Review also identified the need forbetter financial advice and information toenable people to make informed choicesabout their housing options.

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34 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Consultation respondents agreed that there is a need to improve the range and delivery ofhousing advice provision in Westminster. The majority of respondents felt that adviceservices should be available to people in all tenures, and cover a wide range of issuesincluding homelessness prevention, non-priority housing advice, home ownership options,exchange/transfer opportunities, financial advice on benefits and mortgages, and shouldhave access to information about education, employment and training and local healthservices. However, a small minority of respondents felt that the quality of advice might bebetter if it was focused on core housing services, rather than providing information abouttoo wide a range of local services.

There were differing views as to the best method of providing such a service, as customerswould seek advice in different ways. While housing providers generally favouredcentralised provision of a one-stop service where advisers could be seen face to face andvia a call-centre, community organisations tended to favour a service that was delivered atthe neighbourhood level through community centres and local housing offices.

All respondents felt that development of a web based information service was veryimportant, for both customers and advisers to access the most up-to-date information.Views differed as to whether housing advice was best provided as a council service, or byan independent body.

Although we have already reshaped ourhomelessness service to focus on advisingpeople in housing need of their options forsocial or private sector rented housing,there could be benefits in expanding thisservice to provide a broader range ofhousing advice and assistance acrosstenures. This could include peopleinterested in accessing low cost homeownership products, or even existinghomeowners needing help with repairs oraccess to more appropriate housing.

Benefits arising from such a comprehensiveadvice service could include:

• reduced demands on social housing, as people realise they have other options that they never thought possible

• opportunities to link residents into other services, such as employment and training, to increase the housing opportunities that might be available

• income maximisation for residents through directing them to appropriate financial planning and benefits advice

• greater coordination of services, leading to cost and time savings.

Clearly, developing such a comprehensiveservice is a longer-term project, and we willbe commissioning a business case todetermine the costs and benefits. In theshort term, however, there are some actionsthat can be introduced to improve thequality and consistency of information thatadvice services provide and to betterunderstand the types of advice peoplereally want and need.

We see a comprehensive advice serviceproviding information to people in alltenures, including those already in socialhousing, but who might wish to considerother options. To date, the optionsavailable to social tenants to move on havebeen severely limited. Transferring betweendistricts is extremely difficult, andopportunities to own have been restricted.We will be working to increase the range of

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Develop a process for undertaking tenancy reviews among 2007/08council tenants, and pilot before rolling out to other counciltenants and Registered Social Landlords if successful

Produce regular housing options bulletins for advice agencies 2007/08

Undertake a survey of people who approach the Housing Options 2007/08Service, to determine which agencies they have seen

Undertake an audit of advice agencies in Westminster, to map out 2007/08what services are provided

Undertake market research to find out what advice people actually want 2007/08and/or need

Commission a business case for developing a more comprehensive 2007/08advice service

Work with Growth Areas and other areas to market housing 2007–12opportunities to Westminster residents

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 35

options available to tenants, so that peoplehave real choices about what best meetstheir needs and aspirations.

The Westminster Housing Commissionrecommended that we consider introducingregular tenancy reviews for social tenants,through which a range of options could be

discussed. We will be testing out thisproposal with some of our tenants, beforeconsidering its incorporation into a widerhousing advice service.

Rough sleeping

Westminster has always had the highestnumber of rough sleepers of any localauthority in the country. They are the mostexcluded members of our society, and thecouncil is committed to finding solutions.

Building on successes to date, we haverecently developed a new strategy to takethis work forward over the next few years.The priorities of our Rough SleepingStrategy for 2007-10 are:

• commissioning dedicated multi-agency services that meet the needs of rough sleepers and rapidly assist individuals offthe streets

• reconnecting rough sleepers back to their home areas

• meeting the complex physical and mental health needs of rough sleepers, and preventing deaths on the streets

• changing lives by providing a range of accommodation services via identified pathways

• reducing anti-social behaviour associated with rough sleeping includingbegging, street drinking and rough sleeping ‘hot spots’

• seeking lasting solutions to rough sleeping among foreign nationals who have no recourse to public funds

• reducing the over-provision of soup runs in Westminster.

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36 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

In 2005 we introduced a new approach totackling rough sleeping - Buildings BasedServices – which moved support servicesoff the streets and into buildings such asday centres to provide more comprehensiveassessment and advice services andreduce incentives for people to remain onthe streets in order to access services. Anevaluation of this approach was carried outin 2006, which showed that it had beensuccessful.

The number of rough sleepers hasdeclined, and is continuing to fall. Ourshort-term objective is to reduce thenumber of people sleeping rough on anygiven night to 80, and then to as close tozero as possible.

The Buildings Based Services meetapproximately 1,800 verified rough sleepersper year who either self refer, are met on thestreet or are referred or directed to theservices. These services undertake needs-led assessments and casework andachieve a range of outcomes includingreconnections, links into specialist services(mental health, substance misuse etc) andreferrals into accommodation both insideand outside Westminster.

These services are, however, coming underincreasing pressure from new arrivals to thecity. In the past year all three day centreshave reviewed and adjusted their point ofaccess arrangements and criteria to targettheir resources to the most vulnerable.Services will continue to be reviewed, inparticular to target long-term rough sleeperswho do not choose to use day centreservices, or who use the day centres butcontinue to sleep rough.

The majority of those newly sleeping roughin the centre of London do not becomehomeless here. Rather, for complex andvaried reasons, they become homelesselsewhere, leave that area, and journey tothe centre of London where they end upsleeping rough. Westminster has beeninstrumental in establishing a pan-London

reconnections protocol that helps newlyarrived rough sleepers to reconnect withsupport services in their homecommunities, and is working with CentralGovernment to develop a nationalreconnections protocol.

Since the European Union expanded in May2004, regular street counts have shown thatup to one in three rough sleepers onWestminster streets are Accession StateNationals (A8s). The majority of roughsleepers from A8 countries are fit, healthy,economic migrants who move off the streetwithin a day or two. There exists, however,a small but significant group who have, ordevelop, support needs that mean theyshare characteristics with other entrenchedrough sleepers. Government restrictions onthe ability of Accession State Nationals toqualify for state benefits and treatment,mean that this group is not able to accessthe services that other rough sleepers haveavailable to them.

Little can be done to support theseeconomic migrants without agencies ofCentral Government and foreign countriestaking responsibility for them. We willtherefore continue to lobby CentralGovernment to provide basic job searchassistance for A8 nationals through thenetwork of Job Centre Plus, lobbyembassies to provide accessible assistanceto their nationals in need of reconnection totheir home country, and lobby the HomeOffice to make appropriate arrangementsfor those whose asylum application hasbeen refused, but whose country is notdeemed safe for their return.

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Publish revised Rough Sleeping Strategy 2007/08

Enhance engagement of long term rough sleepers 2007/08with buildings based services

Renew contracts or re-tender buildings based provision 2008/09

Seek funding for a therapeutic interventions pilot to meet the needs 2007/08of long term rough sleepers with low level mental health problemsand personality disorders

Reduce anti-social behaviour including begging, street 2007–12drinking and street drug activity

Lobby for support services for A8 nationals 2007/08

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Priority 3Improving neighbourhoods and quality of life

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 39

Tavistock Co-op Playground

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40 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Key drivers• while evidence suggests that people feel

crime and disorder on estates is falling, security and anti-social behaviour is still one of residents’ biggest concerns

• over 20 different housing providers operate in some neighbourhoods

• as well as some very wealthy areas, Westminster has some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country. Many of these have high levels of social housing

• 70% of council tenants are in receipt of benefits

• there are significant variations in life expectancy and mortality across the city,with clear links to levels of disadvantage.

What we plan to doPromoting safe and sustainableneighbourhoods

Renewal of our more deprivedneighbourhoods will continue to be a focusof activity in the coming years, in support ofour City Plan and Local Area RenewalPartnership (LARP) priorities. Housingproviders in the city are heavily involved ineach of our six LARPs, working with a rangeof agencies and the local communities todeliver real improvements in the wayservices are delivered at a local level. TheHousing Network has secured Local AreaAgreement funds to develop a housingrenewal programme that will improveoutcomes for disadvantaged residents inseveral areas.

Safety and security

Crime and anti-social behaviour is a greatconcern for many residents, and housingproviders across the city are committed totackling the problem. CityWest Homes has

Priority 3 Improving neighbourhoods andquality of lifeWhy this is a priority

“The definition of a ‘quality home’ should go beyond the ‘bricks and mortar’ to include thesurrounding environment and the quality of life issues which have an impact on residents'health and well-being.”South Westminster Renewal Partnership Submission to Westminster Housing Commission

While we need to provide more homes, we also need to consider the quality of the housing webuild and how it is managed into the future. We need to provide homes that improve theneighbourhoods in which they sit and are sustainable to meet future needs. People inWestminster are concerned about issues beyond their front doors - about the quality of openspace, about anti-social behaviour, about access to health facilities and play spaces, andabout improving their situation through training and employment.

Westminster households are also concerned about housing affordability and opportunities forhome ownership. Without enabling a better mix of tenures in the city, Westminster is in dangerof becoming a place where only the very rich and the very poor can live.

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for many years operated a programme toimprove security on housing estates andcommunity safety plans have beendeveloped for each village (estatemanagement area) in the city. We takeenforcement action against anti-socialbehaviour when necessary, and will beworking to increase resident satisfactionwith our response to reports of anti-socialbehaviour.

The Government has introduced a ‘RespectStandard’ for housing management, towhich CityWest Homes has signed up, andwe are encouraging the leading WestminsterRegistered Social Landlords to do so too.The Westminster Housing Network hascommissioned a project aimed atsupporting each Registered SocialLandlords working in Westminster to meetthe aims of the Respect agenda. Protocolsand standards that address crime and anti-social behaviour differ across the sector,which has led to concern among residents,local organisations and the Police aboutinconsistent approaches to tacklingoffenders. We aim to develop aWestminster Respect Standard that isagreed by all housing providers operating inthe city.

CivicWatch has now been rolled out acrossthe city. There are 25 local teams that shareintelligence and devise tactics with keypartners on a daily basis to tackle anti-socialbehaviour as it emerges. CityWest Homeswas a founding partner in setting upCivicWatch, and we will support localHousing Associations to become moreinvolved so that issues can be tackled in amore co-ordinated way.

Employment and training

In Westminster there are severalunemployment hotspots, mainly basedaround our larger concentrations of socialhousing, and over 23,000 of Westminster’sworking-age residents have noqualifications. The city council’s EconomicDevelopment Strategy aims to helpresidents access employment and become

financially independent, and encourages thedevelopment of a local workforcepossessing the skills that businesses inWestminster require.

We have a number of housing-ledprogrammes aimed at addressing the skillsneeds of our residents and ensuring thatthey have access to training andemployment opportunities. CityWest Homesand Vital Regeneration are delivering aLocal Housing Labour Initiative to assistyoung people into apprenticeships and workexperience placements, and to assist socialtenants into training, volunteering andemployment opportunities. We are alsoworking with Notting Hill Housing to bringtheir construction training initiative intoWestminster, providing an additional avenuefor our residents to access the support theyneed to progress.

In 2007/08 we will be working with theLearning and Employability Network todeliver an estate-based employability pilot,supporting the neighbourhood focus of ourCity Partnership priorities.

Focusing on one estate with evidence ofhigh levels of worklessness, the projectaims to pilot innovative approaches todelivering and managing the variousemployment and training services inWestminster, and improving outcomes forjob seekers. Key outcomes for the projectinclude:

• unemployed residents moving into employment or self employment (including lone parents, incapacity benefit claimants and Job Seeker’s Allowance claimants)

• residents participating in volunteering, training, work placements or apprenticeships

• Increasing awareness and uptake of employment support services

• developing a network of local providers signposting local job-seekers to opportunities

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• understanding of the needs of job-seekers and how employment services can support them in a more co-ordinatedway.

We are also particularly keen to address thelinks between homelessness andemployability, and have developed a projectthat provides training and employmentsupport services for adults in temporaryaccommodation and young people at risk ofhomelessness. For some homeless andpotentially homeless residents, gainingemployment will enable them to improvetheir prospects and access a broader rangeof housing options.

Health

Tackling health inequalities withinWestminster is a key priority for our CityPartnership. There are strong links betweenthe condition of housing and the inequalitiesin health experienced by some residents. In2007/08 we will be working with the Health &Care Network to achieve real improvementsin health and well-being outcomes at aneighbourhood level. We will beundertaking a pilot project to improveresidents’ health on two housing estatesthat are home to about 1,500 people in thenorth of the city. The project has thefollowing workstreams:

• Healthy People: supporting the self-management of long-term conditions; identification of carers; and linking residents to local services such as Children’s Centres and employment support.

• Healthy Lifestyles: offering a health MOT to all residents; and commissioning a range of healthy lifestyle interventions such as physical activity, smoking cessation and healthy eating initiatives in response to the identified need.

• Healthy Homes: linking estate teams, environmental health and other stakeholders to promote ‘home health’ improvement; identifying vulnerable people and providing support to access

home adaptations, winter warmth payments and alleviating fuel poverty.

• Healthy Place: working with stakeholders and local residents to improve the physical environment and encouraging increased use of gardens; identifying issues affecting disability access on the estates; and working with City Guardians on issues of personal safety and health.

We will also be working on a project totackle health inequalities throughinterventions in a very tightly definedgeographic area – three adjacent roads inthe Queens Park area in which propertyconditions are known to be poor. We will beusing the principles of the Housing Healthand Safety Rating System to identifyopportunities for improving residents’ health,focusing on reducing the risks of respiratoryillnesses, excess cold/fuel poverty, trips andfalls, fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, andentry by intruders.

Community cohesion, engagement andequality

The city council’s One City programme has,at its heart, the vision of a Westminsterbound together by strong communities, ofpeople from different backgrounds but withcommon aspirations. The focus of One Cityis very much on communities, and givingpeople the chance to play a fuller role in citylife. Housing has an important role incontributing to this agenda.

Many local residents are concerned that thecohesiveness of their communities is beingdamaged because there are few affordablehousing opportunities available to them.They, or their children, are forced to leaveWestminster to find anything they canafford.

Through our plans for new developments onexisting housing estates, and throughexpanding intermediate housing provision,we aim to improve the opportunities forpeople to move on locally, and to keepexisting communities together. When we

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develop new homes on existing estates, wewill also endeavour to implement locallettings plans wherever possible, so thatlocal people have the opportunity to movelocally to meet their housing needs.

CityWest Homes has been leading on aproject, supported by NeighbourhoodRenewal Funding, which aims to improvethe opportunities for people to have abigger say in their communities. Theproject’s objectives are to identify and trainnew community leaders, to increaseparticipation opportunities for residents intemporary accommodation, to increase thenumber of young people involved in formalengagement structures, and to increaselinks between residents associations andLocal Area Renewal Partnership structures.

Residents in temporary accommodation canoften miss out on what is going on in theirlocal communities. The temporary nature oftheir housing leads to uncertainty in manyaspects of their lives. In Westminster,residents will usually be living in temporaryaccommodation for many years, and weaim to ensure that they are well linked intotheir local communities and have access toall the information they need aboutaccessing local services and facilities.

As Westminster is one of the most diversecities in the world, our residents have a widerange of needs, expectations andaspirations. Valuing diversity and promotingequality is therefore fundamental to what wedo in housing.

In 2006 we carried out Equalities ImpactAssessments on three of our service areas

(Choice Based Lettings, Housing Supply,and Temporary AccommodationManagement). These assessments showedthat things are generally working well andwe have developed action plans for furtherimprovement.

By 2008 all our housing services will havebeen assessed to identify any potentialnegative impacts on equality target groups.When undertaking Equality ImpactAssessments, we consider potential impactson the basis of ethnicity, gender, disability,age, sexuality and faith.

The areas which we will be prioritising aspart of the implementation of our HousingStrategy include:

• expanding provision of housing for disabled residents;

• reducing overcrowding, which disproportionately affects our BME communities and particularly families withchildren;

• taking forward our housing strategy for older people, improving homes, decommissioning units that cannot be made to meet the housing standards of the 21st century, and providing more extra care housing for older people with higher support needs;

• improving our equality monitoring systems to better aid service planning; and

• continuing to raise staff awareness of equality and diversity issues.

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44 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

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Encourage Westminster Registered Social Landlords to sign up 2007/08to the Respect Standard for Housing Management

Improve Registered Social Landlord engagement in CivicWatch 2007/08

Increase level of tenant satisfaction with the response to reports Target of 49% inof anti-social behaviour (baseline 43% in 2003) 2007/08

Enhance the range of training and employment opportunities for 2007/08social tenants and homeless households

Improve the link between housing advice and training and 2007/08employment programmes, to broaden the range of housingoptions which can be considered

Work with the Health & Care Network on the “Healthy Estates” 2007/08pilot to reduce hazards within the home and improve the healthof vulnerable residents

Reduce health inequalities through targeted action to address 2007/08poor property conditions

Enhance opportunities for people to meet their housing needs 2007-12by moving within their local area

Work with housing providers to enhance residents’ opportunities 2007/08to engage in neighbourhood activities

Develop commissioning and funding strategy for community 2007/08support projects as NRF comes to an end

Ensure all Housing services contribute to meeting the Level 4 by Dec 2008requirements of the Equality Standard for Local Government Level 5 by Oct 2010

Improving neighbourhood management

In Westminster there are over 50 differenthousing organisations managing homes inthe social sector, and more than 20providers operate in some wards.Residents want their landlords to respondto local issues in a joined up way,particularly where concerns relate to themanagement of the public realm or cutacross the responsibilities of a number ofagencies.

Landlords with a significant local presencewill often have resident engagementmechanisms that give their tenants theability to influence issues in their

neighbourhood beyond housing. Therefore,tenants of housing associations withrelatively little stock may sometimes be at adisadvantage compared with theirneighbours whose landlord owns morehousing locally.

Many housing providers are alreadyundertaking innovative work inneighbourhoods, recognisingresponsibilities to tenants beyond theprovision of bricks and mortar and rentcollection. In a pilot project in the HarrowRoad area, three housing associations areusing Neighbourhood Renewal Fundresources to take the lead for the sectorlocally, working together to tackle anti-social

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 45

behaviour and using a local office as a jointaccess point. The project has alreadybegun to attract other resources to improvehealth and coordinate activity to assistvulnerable tenants. We are currentlyworking with housing associations to see ifthis approach can be adopted in otherparts of the city.

Working with housing associationsoperating in Westminster, we have identifieda number of areas that could be addressedthrough a more coordinated approach.These include activities for children andyoung people, addressing overcrowding,tackling anti-social behaviour, providing

housing advice, and providing employmentand training schemes and other communitysupport activity. We have agreed a seriesof actions to take this work forward.

Chief Executives of the larger housingassociations operating in Westminster havebeen meeting regularly with the council’sDirector of Housing for a number of yearsnow. This has proved valuable fornetworking and sharing ideas and bestpractice. We will be developing this groupfurther as an effective forum for resolvingperformance and neighbourhood quality oflife issues that require coordination amonga range of providers.

Consultation carried out during our strategy development process was very supportive ofthe need to coordinate activity at neighbourhood level, to drive up core managementstandards and provide residents with consistent service standards across all the differentsocial landlords. It was generally felt that there should be a core standard that all sociallandlords operating in Westminster signed up to.

Local communities felt that it would be easier if fewer social landlords operated in someareas, and supported stock swaps or sales to other landlords. It was also suggested thatlandlords should share office space and community facilities at a neighbourhood level, andpool resources for local community activity.

While the Harrow Road model was supported, it was suggested that there might need tobe different arrangements in other areas, to meet specific local needs or address differingissues.

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Support and develop the role of the Housing Association 2007/08Chief Executives group

Evaluate Harrow Road pilot project to establish whether 2008/09the model can be rolled out to other areas

Improve liaison between housing providers’ community 2007/08development programmes to ensure information about projects andprogrammes is shared

Undertake an audit of community activity supported by housing 2007/08organisations across the city, including youth programmes, employmentand training programmes, and support services for vulnerable tenants

Investigate opportunities for neighbourhood based local lettings plans 2007-10across housing providers, to address overcrowding andunder-occupancy

Increase the level of tenant satisfaction with their neighbourhood as Satisfaction to risea place to live from 77% to 83%

by 2012

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Supporting people within theircommunities

Developing specialist housing and supportservices will continue to be a high priority, inresponse to the high levels of demandwithin Westminster. In addition to providingspecialist supported housing schemes, wefocus on supporting people to liveindependently within the community andprovide a range of services to enable themto do so.

We have recently reviewed our housing andrelated support strategies for people withmental health problems, and for people withlearning disabilities, and have developed anew housing strategy for older people. In2007/08 we will be reviewing ouroverarching Supporting People strategy.

In order to increase capacity within thesupported housing sector, we aim toimprove move-on opportunities for thosewho no longer require supported housingservices. We have increased the number ofsocial homes available to these clients eachyear, and will be working to build on ourrelationships with private sector landlords,and participating in regional and nationalmove-on projects to provide a wider rangeof housing options to our residents.

We will continue to provide a range ofcommunity based support services forvulnerable people living in independentaccommodation, including our successfulcity-wide floating support service, andspecialist services for people with mentalhealth problems living in temporaryaccommodation or who have moved oninto the community from specialist services.

We will work with Local Area RenewalPartnerships to ensure supported housingservices are available to those most in needand access arrangements and availabilityare well publicised.

Older people

We have developed a new strategy – OlderPeople: Housing & Care, which sets out our

plans for housing for older people inWestminster. We are committed toimproving the quality of the existing stockwith a new minimum standard,decommissioning schemes that are out ofdate, and building new specialist extra-carehousing schemes which will act as hubs todeliver services into the local communityand enable older people to liveindependently for as long as possible intheir own homes.

We are currently piloting provision ofservices for older people at two hubslocated in existing sheltered housingschemes – one in the south and one in thenorth of the city. The aim is to bringtogether key partners such as housing,health, education, leisure and communitysafety, and to deliver a range ofpreventative services which meet the needsof older people living in the schemes, butalso in the local community.

We are also planning an active neighboursscheme to encourage people to look out forolder neighbours. Through the project wewould identify suitable local residents whocan be paired with an older person andwho can be assisted to provide a regular,one-to-one support service to thatindividual. The project aims to promote thehealth and well-being of older people,providing them with reassurance toenhance their feeling of safety in the homeand surrounding neighbourhood.

People with disabilities

We are committed to working in partnershipto meet the housing needs of people withdisabilities. Our planning policies requirethat all new homes be built to “lifetimehomes” standard, and that 10% of newunits are wheelchair accessible. CityWestHomes delivers an annual programme ofadaptations within council housing stock,and we deliver a £750,000 programme ofprivate sector Disabled Facilities Grants(DFGs) which assists 80-90 people eachyear.

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This year we will be utilising the greaterflexibility in use of DFGs to provide moreaccessible accommodation for Westminsterresidents. We will be funding a specialinitiative to remodel ground floor flats in acouncil block in the north of the city tocreate a small number of wheelchairaccessible units. We will also be looking tofund adaptations to one HousingAssociation new-build development toprovide accommodation for people withmore severe disabilities.

We will be working to produce a commonapproach to aids and adaptations provisionacross housing tenures, and will investigatewhether a joint scheme using Local AreaAgreement funding could be developed forall aids and adaptations provision.

The Learning Disability Partnership hasdeveloped a Housing and Support Strategyfor People with a Learning Disability, whichaims to deliver more local housing andsupport services in Westminster, particularlyfor those with more complex needs. It isrecognised that there is a need to increasethe range and choice of housing open topeople with a learning disability to enablethem to live as independently as possible.We are particularly keen to develop optionsfor those living with elderly carers.Discussions are underway with partnersabout three potential new schemes that willprovide much needed accommodation forthis client group.

Mental Health

We have recently updated our Strategy forMental Health Housing and RelatedSupport Services. During the last threeyears we have been working closely withproviders of services and service userslooking at how some of these services wereprovided. This included re-tenderingservices where these could be provided in adifferent way to make access to theservices easier and to improve the quality,

range and value for money. There arecurrently eleven providers of mental healthhousing support in Westminster.

Our priorities for the coming years are:

• to ensure that people have access to the most appropriate accommodation to meet their needs

• to continue to improve the range and quality of all housing related support services.

• to ensure that all services are monitored consistently to achieve real and continuous improvements and positive outcomes for service users

• to encourage and support service users to play an active part in service development

• to ensure that the range of services meets the needs of current and future service users

• to develop a proactive approach to reduce the number of people who are evicted from their accommodation due to tenancy breakdown.

Single homeless

Significant investment has recently been putinto the homeless hostels run by charities inWestminster through the Government’shostels capital programme. The aim of thisprogramme is to make improvements to thelarge, institutional hostels where thephysical constraints are deemed to have adetrimental effect on the quality of thesupport work provided. Six majorrefurbishments are being assisted throughthis programme, along with a number ofsmaller schemes.

Our Homelessness Strategy was publishedin 2003. Since then, a number of changeshave been made to our services and we willbe reviewing our strategy in 2008.

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Deliver more extra-care housing across the city, including 2007-12for dementia care

Develop community-oriented hubs of provision based at 2007-12extra-care and sheltered schemes

Invest in older people’s housing so that all homes meet 2012the agreed minimum standard

Deliver new schemes to provide approximately 20 units of 2007-10accommodation and support for people with learning disabilities

Maximise provision of adaptable housing in new developments 2007-12

Complete the development of Novas’ Dean Street hostel 2007/08service following refurbishment

Work with Registered Social Landlords and community sector to bid to 2007-12Housing Corporation to fund new service development

Support more residents of homeless hostels to access the private rented 2007-12 sector; and work with regional and national move-on projects to achievesuccessful moves for residents of supported housing projects

Provide floating support to over 500 vulnerable individuals living in 2007-12the community, including in temporary accommodation, each year

Review and update homelessness and supporting people strategies 2007-09

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Improving opportunities for children andyoung people

Housing has a key role to play in providingstability for children and young people,ensuring that they are given the best start inlife and the opportunity to achieve their fullpotential. Our work contributes to deliveryagainst the objectives of the Children andYoung People’s Plan, and the Government’sEvery Child Matters agenda.

Homeless families with children now spendno longer than six weeks in Bed & Breakfasthotels, and are instead living in self-contained homes rented largely from theprivate sector while they wait for permanenthousing. This has significantly improvedthe living conditions for children. We have arange of support services for families intemporary accommodation to help withaccess to health, children’s play, educationand training, and other local services.

Our youth homelessness preventionschemes are highly regarded as bestpractice in the field and we work hard toencourage young people to stay with theirfamilies, wherever possible. A ConnexionsPersonal Adviser is based at our HousingOptions Service, providing advice onhousing, care, employment, education andtraining opportunities, and ensuring that all16-17 year olds assessed as needinghousing are able to access supportedaccommodation.

Strong partnerships have been establishedbetween Housing, Connexions, Children &Families teams, Youth Offending Team,Supporting People and the voluntary sector,and a Young Persons Housing Group meetsquarterly to improve the commissioning ofhousing related support services for youngpeople.

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Two new supported housing services haverecently opened to provide housing andsupport for homeless and vulnerable youngpeople and care leavers, and we have alsoopened a young mothers’ accommodationservice – a joint initiative betweenWestminster Primary Care Trust, Housingand Social Services that provides housingand support to five young mothers.

CityWest Homes is committed to deliveringhigh quality, safe play spaces for childrenon our estates and a capital investmentprogramme is in place to provide playequipment and refurbish sports facilities.Since April 2004, over £1.4m has beeninvested in 11 different sports pitches andplaygrounds, with a further eight schemescurrently under development. Consultationwith children across the city indicated thatthey want the opportunity to play close totheir homes and to have improved playequipment on estates. In response to this,the city council and CityWest Homes willbid for capital funding from the Big LotteryFund to create and improve play spaces onsome of Westminster's most deprived socialhousing estates.

CityWest Homes also funds and facilitates arange of provision for children and youngpeople on estates to promote positiveactivity and divert individuals from anti-social behaviour.

Our Modern Apprenticeships scheme hasprovided advice and referrals to over 150vulnerable young people, with 33 youngpeople engaged in training andemployment on a long-term basis. Throughsupport from the Neighbourhood RenewalFund, this programme will continue tobroker access to a range of apprenticeshipopportunities over the coming years.

Overcrowding remains an issue for familieswith children. As well as capital investmentto convert and extend homes, a number ofinitiatives to support families have beendeveloped. The Housing Network hascommissioned CityWest Homes to deliver aprogramme of homework clubs, familylearning and wider community activities thatwill support children and families living inovercrowded social housing. The projectparticularly focuses upon primary schoolchildren who are at risk of underachievingas a result of the lack of space or supportin their home environment. Homeworkclubs benefited children from approximately130 families in 2006/07, and we aim toprovide the service for between 150 and200 families in 2007/08. Additionally, nearly50 children and parents are participating inwider family learning programmes andcommunity activities.

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Intervene to prevent approximately 30 young people from becoming 2007-12homeless each year, and support a further 40 in specialistaccommodation

Bid for capital funding from the Big Lottery Fund to create 2007/08and improve play spaces on Westminster's deprived estates

Further develop training and employment opportunities for young 2007-12people living in temporary and permanent social housing

Provide homework clubs for children, particularly those 200 children living in overcrowded housing supported in

2007/08

Provide family learning and other community activities to 2007-12support families living in overcrowded conditions

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50 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Improving conditions in the privatesector

Most of the Housing Act 2004 provisionshave now been in place for just over oneyear and the work of ResidentialEnvironmental Health team will continue tofocus on implementing these new dutiesand powers. We have been working toimplement the new provisions on licensingfor Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)and some 325 properties previouslyregistered with the council have beenpassported into the national licensingscheme. A further 100 or so new licenceapplications have been, or shortly will be,determined. Approximately 600 propertiesremain registered in the council’s HMOregistration scheme and some but not all ofthese will become subject to the licensingregime when all of the provisions areenacted.

The licensing duties relating to certainclasses of houses converted into flats arenot likely to be implemented until October2007 and at that time it is estimated thatbetween 1,500 and 2,500 properties in thecity will need to be licensed. A substantialamount of work will be involved in ensuringthat these properties meet minimum healthand safety standards.

One of the main purposes of the nationalHMO licensing regime is to improvemanagement standards in the sector.Westminster is fortunate in having areasonably well managed HMO sector incomparison with other boroughs. This is notto say that problems do not exist and thecouncil is working with landlords to improvemanagement standards, not only throughthe enforcement provisions of licensing, butalso through the training and accreditationof those landlords who manage theirproperties themselves. The council is partof the London Landlord AccreditationScheme which now has over 2,000accredited landlords and the council hostsa number of training events each year.

In addition to licensing HMOs, we areworking with the London Fire Brigade andcommercial environmental health officers to

improve the condition of accommodationabove licensed premises, largely staffaccommodation above pubs.

Our Residential Environmental Health teamdeals with approximately 2,100 servicerequests each year from occupiers ofprivate sector dwellings. Both formal andinformal action is used to tackle theproblems that arise and legislation is usedeffectively to ensure that complaints aredealt with appropriately.

The council’s private sector renewal policywill continue to focus on adaptations fordisabled people, energy efficiency andaffordable warmth. The introduction of thenew regime for judging minimum housingstandards, the Housing Health and SafetyRating System, has given addedprominence to the issue of energyefficiency. Under this regime a largepercentage of the stock fails under thehazard of ‘excess cold’. Subsidy fromCentral Government for energy efficiencyworks in order to meet the Decent Homesstandard is available in 2007/8 to the NorthLondon Sub-regional group of housingauthorities and the city council will beaccessing these monies for works toWestminster housing stock.

Improving the condition of homes ofvulnerable residents in private rentedaccommodation is a priority area for action.Through decent homes and energyefficiency works, we aim to assist 155 suchhouseholds in 2007/08, while addressing“Category 1” hazards in 170 homes.

The council will be working with the PCTand other partners on the Healthy Estatesproject (discussed above) involving AvenueGardens and Queens Park Court Estates,where a number of properties are within theprivate rented sector, and targeting actionto address health inequalities.

The council will continue to be pro-active inbringing long-term vacant residentialproperty back into use and will focus someof its activity on the northern end of HarrowRoad where a concentration of vacantdwellings has been identified.

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In 2007/08 we are planning to undertake anew private sector stock condition survey to

update our knowledge and to inform futureactivity with the sector.

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Carry out private sector stock condition survey 2007/08

Increase the number of private sector homes occupied 155 in 2007/08by vulnerable people meeting the Decent Homes standard

Remove Category 1 hazards from 170 homes 2007/08

Improve conditions in HMOs through licensing and 2007-12improving management standards

Going green

Westminster Council’s housing stock hasthe highest SAP score (energy efficiencyrating) in the country. CityWest Homes islooking to improve this score still further bycarrying out work in tenants’ homes toincrease insulation, install energy efficientboilers and fit thermostatic controls toradiators. We encourage our residents touse energy efficient light bulbs and arefitting them in all vacant properties.CityWest Homes is also now looking toincrease the energy efficiency of communalservices such as lighting and lifts.

Energy efficiency grants are provided toprivate sector households to improve theirhomes, and reduce environmental impactsand the risk of fuel poverty. We willcontinue to promote our fuel switchingservice, which has become increasinglyimportant as energy prices have risen inrecent years, to help address fuel poverty.In the past two years we have assistedapproximately 400 households to switchtheir fuel supplier.

Achieving sustainable design in newhousing is a priority for the city council. The

Government has recently introduced a newCode for Sustainable Homes that willbecome mandatory in 2008. While ourplanning policies currently require largedevelopments to comply with “EcoHomes”standards, we will be reviewing ourrequirements as part of a newSupplementary Planning Document onResidential Standards due for publicationlater this year. CityWest Homes is aiming toachieve Level 3 of this new standard in itshomes.

The council also aims to maximiseopportunities to design buildings forbiodiversity, including ensuring that livingroofs, green walls and the sensitivelandscaping of communal green spacesare developed as features of existing andnew homes. This meets the objectives ofimproving the quality of the local naturalenvironment, supports efforts to minimisethe effects of climate change, and improveswellbeing and quality of life for local people.

In developing investment plans for ourestates, we will aim to enhance green andopen space, in support of the council’sOpen Spaces Strategy.

CCoommmmiittmmeennttss MMii lleessttoonneess

Review requirements for sustainable design in new New guidance to be published residential developments 2007

Further improve energy efficiency of council stock 2007-12

Incorporate biodiversity in the design of new buildings 2007-12

Reduce levels of fuel poverty for vulnerable residents 2007-12

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52 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–201252 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

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Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 53

Priority 4Developing our role as a strategic housing authority

Gloucester Terrace, Paddington

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Key drivers• place-shaping: understanding the

relationship between housing, planning and the economy

• a diverse social housing sector: over 50 different housing associations own or manage homes within Westminster

• partnerships with landlords: over one-third of households live in privately rentedaccommodation

• decent homes programme completed forcouncil housing: developing the next priorities for CityWest Homes

• importance of regional issues: Mayor of London now has responsibility for strategic housing investment in London.

What we plan to doFurther developing our strategic role

A recent paper from London Councils hassuggested a definition for the overarchingstrategic housing role for local authorities:

“The role of a strategic housing authority is to ensure that the local housing market meets local needs, whilst supporting wider local economic, environmental and social objectives as components of sustainable communities, and to ensure delivery of these objectives in the authority’s local area via engagement andpartnerships with local citizens and stakeholders.”London Councils, 2007

The activity set out within our HousingStrategy very much supports this definition.We believe the strategic housing role isalready well established at Westminster. Wewere one of the first authorities in London to

54 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Priority 4 Developing our role as astrategic housing authorityWhy this is a priority

“We noted, early on, that an important characteristic of [Westminster] council is its interest

in the strategic role which a local authority can play, way beyond the narrow confines of

acting simply as a provider of social housing.”

Report of the Westminster Housing Commission

The strategic housing role is becoming increasingly important, as councils can no longerdeliver housing solutions by themselves. We rely heavily on our partners to meet a range ofhousing needs, across all tenures, both in and outside Westminster. Housing also hasimportant links to other agendas, such as neighbourhoods and communities; health andeducation; employment and training. We have moved on from simply collecting the rent anddoing the repairs. We must see the bigger picture if we are to provide the best possibleservice for residents.

Developments at national and regional level such as the Local Government White Paper, theGLA Bill, the Mayor’s Housing Strategy, and the Hills and Cave reviews recently undertaken bythe Government, are also pointing toward a more prominent strategic housing role for localauthorities and a move to us becoming “place-shapers”.

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step away from direct housing managementthrough creation of our ALMO five yearsago, and have well developed partnershiparrangements with our residents and localvoluntary and statutory sector agencies thatfocus delivery at a neighbourhood level.

The Westminster Housing Commission hasenabled us to take stock of where we wereheading and to set ourselves new goals,while the evidence gathered to support theCommission’s work has vastly improved ourknowledge base and will ensure our futureplans are based on sound foundations.

We must now ensure that the work of theWestminster Housing Commissioncontinues to inform and shape our, and ourpartners’, future activity.

Moving our relationship with CityWestHomes to a new level

CityWest Homes was formed in April 2002.In its first five years of operation, CityWestHomes secured two “three-star excellent”ratings from the Audit Commission,completed the Decent Homes programmefour years ahead of the Government’sschedule, and oversaw consistentlyimproving customer satisfaction levels.

Following a strategic review of stock andmanagement options carried out in 2006/07,the council has decided to extend themanagement agreement with CityWestHomes for a further five years. We haveidentified four strategic priorities for theALMO over the period, and will work withCityWest Homes to support their delivery:

• improving the quality of life in Westminster neighbourhoods, which will involve CityWest Homes becoming a leader in neighbourhood regeneration and acting a as a key partner in neighbourhood-based activity

• improving customer satisfaction even further beyond the current high levels

• improving the housing stock and associated infrastructure, so that our residents live in homes and neighbourhoods that exceed national quality standards. The focus will be very much on “place making”

• delivering enhanced value for money, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Housing Revenue Account.

Further developing local and regionalpartnerships

We will continue to work with our NorthLondon Housing Sub-regional partners(Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey andIslington) on a range of issues, particularlysecuring the maximum possible funds fornew affordable housing development withinthe sub-region, and improvingWestminster’s access to new homes.

We will also need to develop a newpartnership with the Mayor of London as hetakes on responsibility for preparing theLondon Housing Strategy and makingstrategic decisions about affordable housingfunding decisions in London.

The future supply line may be boosted byup to £100m of investment from theindependent Dolphin Square CharitableFoundation. The Foundation’s investmentshould begin to yield housing opportunitiesin 2007 and we are already working inpartnership to bring forward a range of newideas.

Our Local Area Agreement helps us to workwith partners to bring resources together totackle cross-cutting issues that impact onresidents’ quality of life. The Agreement willbe re-negotiated in 2007. Ensuring thathousing is both a priority area and supportscross-cutting agendas such as tackling anti-social behaviour and improving well-beingwill be important.

Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012 55

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56 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Developing our relationship with privatelandlords

More households live in privately rentedhomes than in social rented housing inWestminster. In the coming years we will beworking to improve our relationship with theprivate rented sector landlords who provideaccommodation for just over one-third ofthe households in the city.

We have regular meetings with landlords todiscuss Housing Benefit issues, and hold anannual event that attracts up to 100landlords and at which we discussperformance on benefits and enforcementactivity, consult on changes to enforcementpolicies and standards, and providebriefings on new and emerging issues thataffect the private rented sector. We will beworking with landlords to ensure we are allready for the introduction of Local HousingAllowance in 2008.

We are also in discussion with partnerboroughs in North London aboutestablishing a sub-regional privatelandlords’ forum.

Ongoing research and analysis

Key to our capacity for strategically leadingthe housing agenda within Westminster willbe keeping up-to-date with the latestinformation about local housing marketsand indicators of housing need across alltenures. We will be working to further

develop the information systems andresearch programme that inform the work ofthe council and our housing partners.

Lobbying for change

The evidence gathered by the HousingCommission points towards there being aspecial case for boroughs such asWestminster which are facing extremepressures and demands. National levelapproaches or policies do not always workeverywhere. We have very good links withnational and regional policy makers and arewell placed to lobby for assistance and/orchanges to policy. We will be focusing ourefforts towards effecting change in suchareas as:

• strengthening local connection rules for homelessness duties and sharing responsibility with other London boroughs

• increasing affordable housing grant levels for high cost areas and for larger homes

• ensuring all boroughs have access to new homes in Growth Areas in London and elsewhere, while also lobbying for continued development in existing areas where there is identified housing need

• increased freedoms and flexibilities for ALMOs to enable them to develop as sound businesses.

CCoommmmiittmmeennttss MMii lleessttoonneess

Convene a meeting of the Westminster Housing Commission 2007/08to review progress of their recommendations

Continue to develop local and regional partnerships to maximise 2007-12housing opportunities for our residents

Work with CityWest Homes to contribute to the council’s one 2007-12city agenda, focusing on increasing customer service, improvingvalue for money, improving the quality of the housing asset,and improving the quality of neighbourhoods

Hold regular meetings with private sector landlords 2007-12

Develop a housing research programme 2007/08

Lobby Government for changes required to enable us 2007-12to deliver our strategic objectives

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Westminster Housing Commission Report:Summary of Recommendations

Appendix 1

Key Recommendations

KR 1 Toughen requirements for a local connection: by amending the “six out of twelve months” rule and moving to a longer residency requirement – e.g. eighteen months out of the last three years. For households with “no local connection”, TA costs should be pooled on a London-wide basis (DCLG / GLA / WCC)

KR 2 Provide enhanced incentives to encourage the freeing up of family-sized homes; applied equally to RSLs (WCC / RSLs / DCLG)

KR 3 Undertake a more extensive exercise to determine where opportunities for extra development would be worthwhile and higher densities could be achieved, ensuring that residents do not pay the price for the change to their environment (WCC)

Council Response and Action

This recommendation will require legislativechange. The council will undertake furthermodelling to assess the impact of such achange in Westminster.

This issue will continue to be a lobbyingpriority for the council – asking Governmentto ease the burden on high demandauthorities that accept a housing duty tohouseholds with no local connection.

The council has increased its budget forsuch activity in 2007/08. A total of £1m hasbeen made available to assist tenants whowish to purchase properties on the openmarket.

Regarding tenants who downsize to asmaller social rented home, in 2006/07 80households decided to move against atarget of 35. For 2007/08 a target of 75 hasbeen set.

Extra posts have been created, focussed inparticular on supporting older peoplethrough the moving process.

At the same time, a project is beingundertaken to work with housingassociations to assist underoccupiers tomove – this will examine the possibility ofapplying incentives similar to those offeredto council tenants.

This is already underway. To date, ninesites have been identified and feasibilitystudies will be carried out to determinedevelopment potential. CityWest Homeswill bid to the Housing Corporation tosecure funding for such developments

A study is also underway to assessdevelopment potential on land owned byhousing associations.

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58 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Key Recommendations

KR 4 Gain access to additional house building outside Westminster: Westminster should seek to play a leading role in pan-London and inter-regional discussions and should press for access to new affordable housing that can meet a range of needs, including family housing. Particularly, Westminster should work closely with partner boroughs for access to the Growth Areas (WCC / London Boroughs / GLA-Mayor)

KR 5 Develop a more comprehensive arrangement for achieving affordable housing through planninggain which extracts a contribution – in cash or kind, off-site as well as on-site, on a fairer basis that includes small projects and commercial projects – as a more important area of reform than the introduction of a Planning Gain Supplement (Treasury / DCLG / WCC)

KR 6 Rather than removing security of tenure, introduce voluntary reviews of tenancies to discuss options for moving or staying (RSLs / WCC)

KR 7 Encourage tenants to take up SocialHomebuy options and explore alternative means to achieve a mix of tenure on estates (DCLG / WCC /RSLs)

KR 8 Pursue “Temporary to Settled” housing schemes that utilise private finance to bring Temporary Accommodation properties into ownership of non-profit, locally accountable bodies (WCC and London Boroughs / DCLG / DWP)

KR 9 Commission further work to look at benefits and cost of providing familyhomes and help families on averageincomes to access low cost home ownership within satisfactory commuting distance e.g. in other parts of London and the Growth Areas (DCLG / WCC / GLA / Housing Corporation)

Council Response and Action

This issue is a high priority on the council’slobbying agenda.

A review of planning policies for housing willcommence in late 2007, as part of the LocalDevelopment Framework process. TheHousing Commission’s recommendationswill be considered in detail at this time.

This recommendation will be piloted firstwith council tenants with a view to rollingout to housing associations.

Three Westminster housing associationshave opted to offer Social Homebuy to theirtenants. The council and CityWest homeswill review the benefits of offering this modelto council tenants.

Temporary to settled homes scheme isbeing developed as a joint venture withDolphin Square Charitable Foundation,aiming to procure 200 properties over thenext two years that will be converted topermanent social housing units. Furtheropportunities are also being explored.

This issue is a high priority on the council’slobbying agenda.The council will look tomaximise the amount of family sizedaccommodation delivered through the nextround of Housing Corporation funding.

Work is underway to convert existing socialrented properties into larger, family sized,homes.

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Key Recommendations

(KR 9 continued)

KR 10 Review the council’s housing adviceservices and put in place measures to enhance and extend current arrangements as a model for other authorities (WCC)

Other Recommendations

R 1 Lower expectations and provide advice on options elsewhere. The DCLG’s Move UK is intended to give information on homes, jobs and other services in different areas but, despite incorporating existing mobility schemes, the service is not yet fully functioning: it needs to be operational as soon as possible and, perhaps, to extend its reach (DCLG)

R 2 Continue to take forward the preventative approach already showing results, with support for households to retain their existing (often privately rented) home or remain with parents where family disputes can be resolved (WCC)

R 3 Consider direct provision through partner bodies, to offer opportunitiesoutside the city (WCC)

R 4 Explore the idea of a pan-London choice-based lettings scheme, which could make movements of tenants to other boroughs much easier (GLA / WCC / ALG)

R 5 Continue to promote conversions of offices into flats (WCC)

Council Response and Action

Planning requirements for family sized, 3bed and larger, homes will be reviewed aspart of the Local Development Frameworkprocess.

Options for family housing for those onaverage incomes will be considered as anintermediate housing strategy is developed.

An options appraisal will be carried out toconsider the benefits of commissioning anenhanced housing advice service inWestminster. A number of specificmeasures will be undertaken in an attemptto improve housing advice, linked to adviceabout issues such as benefits, training andemployment.

The Government has cancelled the MoveUK contract. This will remain a high priorityon the council’s lobbying agenda.

Preventing homelessness continues to be akey priority for the city council. In 2006/07278 households were successfullyprevented from becoming homeless andthe council remains on track to meettemporary accommodation reductiontargets.

Our priority will always be to provideaccommodation within Westminster,however we will explore other opportunitiesas they arise.

We continue to work through LondonCouncils to develop appropriatearrangements for access toaccommodation outside Westminster.

UDP policy permits change of use fromoffice to homes; conversions will continueto be promoted, but this is largelydependent on the relative market value ofcommercial and residential use, whichchanges over time.

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Other Recommendations

R 6 Pursue continued requirement for mixed-use developments (WCC)

R 7 Ensure that the release of public sector land is maximised, through planning requirements for developers to engage with English Partnerships, or other public deliveryorganisations (WCC / English Partnerships / DCLG)

R 8 Continue to use Compulsory Purchase Order powers to achieve development of (often unsightly andderelict) sites that stand empty. Sometimes a CPO can unlock the chance of a significant scheme which, with the usual planning gains, will lead to extra homes for poorer as well as richer residents. (WCC)

R 9 Negotiating quotas of affordable housing alongside other contributions from developers remains challenging. Westminster must attract and retain highly skilledplanners with good knowledge of property development (WCC)

R 10 There may be merit in applying the model of Rural Housing Enablers to the circumstances of Westminster: skilled individuals could negotiate and mediate between the housing and planning professionals, potential developers and landowners and local communities (WCC / DSCF)

R 11 Close the gap between planing permissions and construction starts (DCLG / WCC)

Council Response and Action

This is in line with the London Plan andWestminster planning policies.

This is in line with council policy. The citycouncil will engage fully with relevantpartners once it is notified of an intention todispose of public sector land.

The council continues to use compulsorypurchase orders as a last resort tomaximise the use of existing land orbuildings.

Retaining high quality planning staff is apriority for the council. The forthcomingSupplementary Planning Guidance onPlanning Obligations will help to ensure thatadditional social infrastructure is providedas appropriate, in addition to requiringaffordable housing.

This is potentially a role for the DolphinSquare Charitable Foundation.

Recent publicity has highlighted this as aproblem in London. However, incomparison with other London Boroughs,Westminster’s record is good and since1997 the development rate has exceededthe annualised target set by the Mayor ofLondon.

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Other Recommendations

(R 11 continued)

R 12 Forge partnerships with private sector land owners to maximise benefits from developments incl. housing credits covering the housing requirements of commercialdevelopments under the mixed use policy. (WCC / Major landowners)

R 13 Leave the market to determine the size of homes for outright sale (WCC)

R 14 Require an affordable housing contribution from all developments, by removing the threshold for exemption and thus ending the anomaly between larger and smallerdevelopments.

Council Response and Action

The use of pre-application discussions andcloser working with partners has enabled ahigh approval rate of major residentialplanning applications, with the vast majoritydecided within the statutory time period of13 weeks. Where possible, the length oftime taken to sign legal agreements (astumbling block for some authorities) is alsokept to a minimum, by the use of a clearpolicy framework for affordable housing andthe use of standard clauses to enable theagreement to be signed concurrently orvery soon after planning consent. Planningwill continue to monitor unimplementedresidential permissions, and will investigatereasons for delays on larger sites.

The city council already works closely withthe Westminster Property Owners’Association and individual major estates.The ‘housing credits’ case involving ParkHouse and Wilton Plaza is currently thesubject of a Judicial Review, on the basisthat the policy is not explicitly in the UnitaryDevelopment Plan. Subject to the outcomeof the JR, the council will examine thefeasibility and desirability of including sucha policy in the Local DevelopmentFramework.

Current UDP policy does not permit this.New Government guidance (PPS3) statesthat the size of market units requestedneeds to reflect needs and demands,based on evidence from detailed London-wide and local assessments. Revision ofUDP policy will be based on the results ofsuch assessments and wide publicconsultation, including with housingdevelopers.

This recommendation will be consideredthrough the Local Development Frameworkprocess.

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Other Recommendations

R 15 Housing Corporation to relax grant restrictions in recognition of the highdevelopment costs in Central London (Housing Corporation)

R 16 Grant ‘premium’ for family-sized homes, targeted in particular at the very large properties that are in suchshort supply (Housing Corporation)

R 17 Consolidate management arrangements between housing providers (RSLs / CWH / Housing Corporation / WCC)

R 18 The Mayor’s strategy should encourage Social Housing Grant to be used to retain and modernise existing property in order to avoid the loss of social housing (Housing Corporation / RSLs)

R 19 If Housing Associations are to sell properties, first option to purchase should be offered to another HA before being offered on the open market.

R 20 Establish whether an accelerated restructuring of rent levels to achieve compatibility in the social sector earlier than currently planned,might produce sufficient funds to substitute for property sales – and at what cost in deepening the ‘employment trap’ for those compelled to seek Housing Benefit because of high rents (DCLG)

Council Response and Action

This remains a lobbying priority for the citycouncil. We will continue to lobby for thesub-regional funding regime to allow forhigher cost areas like Westminster toreceive a higher grant premium to deliveraffordable housing, particularly for family-sized dwellings.

This remains a lobbying priority for the citycouncil. The move to a grant per personrate has made it somewhat easier to deliverfamily-sized accommodation inWestminster, however it is still morefinancially viable for a Housing Associationto develop smaller rather than larger units.

The city council will continue to work withthe Housing Corporation and RSLs inWestminster to foster stock rationalisation.Our pilot project in Harrow Road aims tobetter co-ordinate the activity of the manyHousing Associations that own property inthat small area and to raise core housingmanagement standards; and we activelyencourage developing RSLs to enter intomanagement agreements with otherpartners where an area would benefit froma common housing manager.

The city council will continue to makerepresentations to the Housing Corporationand the Mayor regarding the need for abalanced investment strategy that allowsbids for stock investment to be consideredalongside bids for new development.

The city council has secured agreementfrom RSLs that are proposing to dispose ofstock, that before units are offered on theopen market, other RSLs will be given firstoption to purchase these properties.

This is a lobbying point that the city councilwill pick up with DCLG.

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Other Recommendations

R 21 Build on approach of establishing relationship managers between CityWest Homes and housing providers (WCC / CWH)

R 22 CityWest Homes to undertake more direct management, including temporary accommodation (WCC / CWH)

R 23 Government to provide clarity on thefuture direction of ALMOs and on financial freedoms (DCLG)

R 24 WCC to consult with tenants again to look at the voluntary transfer option with a view to further improvements in the quality of their own stock and to the potential for increasing supply of affordable housing (WCC / Residents’ Groups)

Council Response and Action

The relationship manager approach is nowfully embedded within CityWest’s newcontract framework which has been in placefor just over a year.

CityWest Homes, through CityWest Direct,now directly manages nearly 20% of thecouncil’s housing stock. CWH is reviewingoptions for taking on the management oftemporary accommodation, and is also indiscussions with the council about takingon the management of units converted fromtemporary accommodation to permanentsocial rented homes.

This continues to be key lobbying priorityfor the council and for CityWest Homes.These points were made by the WCCDirector of Housing and CWH ChiefExecutive in a recent meeting with thePrime Minister

In the meantime, the council and CWH haveagreed a new set of local priorities under arevised management agreement followingthe completion of Decent Homes. Thisincludes freedoms and rewards for CWH inreturn for high performance.

The council has recently concluded areview of stock options and has agreed anew five-year management agreement withCWH.

The review concluded that the HousingRevenue Account is sustainable into thelonger term and that the investment needsof the stock can be met from withinexpected resources.

The new agreement commits Westminsterto the ALMO model until 2012. It is likelythat options will be reviewed again at thatpoint.

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Other Recommendations

R 25 Set up a formal Landlords’ Forum tobring the parties together to discussthe option of Rent Deposit Schemeswhich could give landlords the confidence to let to people on Housing Benefit. (WCC / DSCF)

R 26 Use the opportunity provided by theHousing Act 2004 to take over properties that have been empty for more than six months and bring them back into use (WCC)

R 27 Forge alliances with Universities, Colleges and providers of social housing to maximise development opportunities (WCC / RSLs / Universities)

R 28 Impose restrictions on “staircasing up” in order to stop the constant loss of low cost home ownership: occupiers need not be allowed to acquire the grant-aided segment which could be held in perpetuity bya housing association to help those in need in the future. (DCLG / Housing Corporation / RSLs)

R 29 New Build Homebuy should be encouraged but there should be less emphasis on Open Market Homebuy (DCLG / Housing Corporation / GLA / WCC)

Council Response and Action

We have a regular landlords event thatattracts up to 100 Westminster landlordsand at which a wide range of issuesaffecting private rented housing arediscussed. A rent deposit schemeoperates in Westminster.

This was considered as part of the council’sreview of Housing Act implications prior to itcoming into force in 2006. It was decidednot to pursue Empty Dwelling ManagementOrders (EDMOs) as an enforcement tool fora number of reasons including: the potentialfinancial risk to the council; and theprospect that use of EDMOs was not likelyto bring forward a supply of homes at thelower end of the market which is where theyare most needed.

The housing needs of universities andcolleges will be taken into account duringthe LDF process so that their future planscan be taken into account. The city council,universities and Westminster KingswayCollege are part of the Central LondonPartnership which focuses on the needs ofthe heart of London.

WCC will look to encourage a greater rangeof intermediate provision in Westminster,including models that retain subsidy withinthe affordable housing sector.

The city council will work to encourage agreater range of intermediate housingproducts in Westminster, including morenew-build intermediate homes.

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R 30 Create a team of Westminster Housing Enablers (or an external agency) charged with locating potential deals

R 31 Private Rented Sector: Consider funding Bond Schemes, through which Landlords accept tenants on Housing Benefit in return for a bond that underwrites rent losses

R 32 Housing for essential workers: Invest in low-interest equity loans forwould-be purchasers

R 33 Research and analysis: To evaluate initiatives from Westminster City Council and Central Government

R 34 Pursue the progress of the Housing Commission recommendations and ideas into the future

These recommendations will be discussedwith the Dolphin Square CharitableFoundation Board.

Recommendations to the Dolphin Square Charitable Foundation

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Registered Social Landlords

Genesis Housing GroupOctavia Housing & CarePeabody TrustSoho Housing Association

Other partner organisations

CityWest HomesThe PassageVital Regeneration

City Partnership Networks / LocalArea Renewal Partnerships

Church Street Neighbourhood ManagementHealth & Care Network BoardLearning & Employability NetworkSouth Westminster Renewal PartnershipWestbourne Neighbourhood ForumWestminster Community NetworkOthers

Guthrie McKie – Minority PartySpokesperson for HousingJohn Brett – resident

66 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

Housing Strategy consultationThe following organisations / individuals have responded to the draft Housing Strategyconsultation:

Officers attended the following forums / events to discuss the Housing Commission findingsand draft Housing Strategy:

City Partnership Networks / Local AreaRenewal Partnerships

Children & Young People’s StrategicPartnershipHarrow Road PartnershipHealth & Care Network Advisory GroupHealth & Care Network BoardLearning & Employability NetworkQueens Park Neighbourhood ForumSouth Westminster Community NetworkWestminster City PartnershipWestminster Community NetworkWestbourne Neighbourhood Forum

Area Forums

Maida Vale MaryleboneSt Johns Wood West End

Others

City council staff briefings CityWest Homes Board Housing PanelHousing Advice Partners’ ForumHousing Association Chief Executives’MeetingWestminster Housing Commission LaunchWestminster Housing ConferenceWestminster Tenants’ Day

In addition to the above, the draft Housing Strategy was sent to the following organisations (orinformation included in their newsletters), and they were invited to respond to the consultation.The Strategy was also placed on the city council’s website for public comment.

Appendix 2

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Community organistionsThe Abbey Community Centre AlahdjaBayswater Families CentreBengali Women’s GroupCardinal Hume CentreChinese Community CentreThe Connection at St MartinsHomeless LinkMarylebone Bangladeshi SocietyMoroccan Women’s ProjectOlder People’s Advisory ServicePaddington Development TrustThe PassageWestminster Bangladeshi AssociationWestminster Carer’s ServiceWestminster Federation of Residents’Associations

Westminster City PartnerhsipCross River PartnershipLiveability NetworkMetropolitan PoliceSafer Westminster NetworkVoluntary Action WestminsterWest End/Soho LARPWestminster Partnership for Racial EqualityWestminster Primary Care Trust

Central Government / partner boroughsCity of LondonDepartment for Communities and LocalGovernmentEnglish PartnershipsGovernment Office for LondonGreater London AuthorityHousing CorporationLondon Borough of BarnetLondon Borough of Brent London Borough of CamdenLondon Borough of EnfieldLondon Borough of Haringey

London Borough of IslingtonLondon CouncilsRoyal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

Registered Social LandlordsCentral & Cecil Housing TrustCentrepointCircle AngliaCommunity Housing AssociationDominion Housing GroupEnglish Churches Housing GroupFamily MosaicGenesis Housing GroupLookahead Housing & CareMetropolitan Housing TrustNotting Hill Housing GroupPCHAPeabody TrustSanctuary Housing AssociationServite HousesSoho Housing AssociationSt Mungo’sStadium Housing AssociationThreshold Housing & SupportUjima Housing GroupWECHWestway Housing Association

OthersConnexions Dolphin Square Charitable FoundationKaren Buck MP Mark Field MPNHS London (Strategic Health Authority)Paddington Law CentreSt Mary’s HospitalWestminster Action on DisabilityWestminster CAB Westminster Faith ExchangeWestminster Housing Commissioners Westminster Housing Options ServiceWestminster Property Owners Association

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Further informationFor further information about housing services in Westminster, visit:wwwwww..wweessttmmiinnsstteerr..ggoovv..uukk//hhoouussiinngg

Useful contacts:CCiittyyWWeesstt HHoommeess 002200 77224455 22000000

HHoommee OOwwnneerrsshhiipp 002200 77224455 22220088Right to Buy, Shared Ownership, Homebuy schemes

HHoouussiinngg AAssssoocciiaatt iioonn ll iiaaiissoonn 002200 77664411 22772244

HHoouussiinngg BBeenneeff ii tt 00880000 007722 00004422

HHoouussiinngg OOpptt iioonnss SSeerrvviiccee 002200 77664411 11000000Advice on accessing a range of housing in Westminsterprivate renting, social renting, home ownership, choice based lettings,tenancy relations and homelessness advice

HHoouussiinngg SSttrraatteeggyy 002200 77664411 11991133

KKeeyy WWoorrkkeerr HHoouussiinngg 002200 88992200 77777777Contact Metropolitan Home Ownership

PPrriivvaattee SSeeccttoorr HHoouussiinngg 002200 77664411 66116611Grants for improvements to private homes, help with adaptations,empty properties

RRoouugghh SSlleeeeppiinngg hheellppll iinnee 002200 77664411 33884411 For members of the public concerned about people who (24 hours)are sleeping rough in their area

SSuuppppoorrtteedd HHoouussiinngg 002200 77664411 22883344Services to help people maintain independence in their own homes

To view the report of the Westminster Housing Commission, visit:wwwwww..wweessttmmiinnsstteerroonnll iinnee..oorrgg//hhoouussiinnggccoommmmiissssiioonn

68 Westminster Housing Strategy: 2007–2012

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