Thu, 17/12/2015 - 10:02
Cllr Frank Hont attended the Financial Capability Hub project group meeting , on the 29th October 2015 as our guest speaker. Cllr Hont showed his support for the project and stated that he admired the work of the Citizens Advice services in Liverpool, with whom he has worked closely in his previous role as Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, and continues to do so in his new role, focusing on housing. He reported that Liverpool City Council (LCC) see the right housing strategy as vital to the lives of its citizens and do not view housing as a commodity.
Cllr Frank Hont reported that he had been given 3 areas of change on which to focus:
- Building New Homes
- Tackling the city’s empty properties/voids
- Improving the city’s housing offer
Upon his election in 2012, Mayor Joe Anderson pledged to build 5,000 new homes during his term. 6,700 properties have been started and many completed. The city has no housing stock at present but rather has entered into strategic partnerships with those who build homes to ensure that affordable housing is available.
A number of initiatives have been implemented to address the issue of voids, including a “match-making” event for tenants and landlords with empty properties. The Homes for a Pound initiative involves people who live or work in Liverpool buying empty properties for £1, providing they recondition the house to living standards and do not sell for 5 years. After a successful pilot, applications have now been received for the second tranche, focusing on the Smithdown area. As well as filling properties, this is part of the initiative to regenerate areas and re-engage communities. Cllr Frank Hont noted that he has a lot of respect for the people who buy and renovate these houses, as it is no small task, this was echoed by the Lisle cabinet member for housing during his visit, who labelled them pioneers and was shocked at the derelict nature of the properties when they were first purchased.
Liverpool is currently the only city with a compulsory city-wide private landlord licencing scheme. Though initial resistance was received from landlords, Cllr Frank Hont has met with landlord groups to make it clear that this scheme is pro-tenant not anti-landlord. Liverpool City Council believe that this will drive up the quality of the privately rented sector, however it will take time. It is now important that this is embedded and enforced.
A student accommodation review is taking place involving students, developers, landlords, councillors and communities, which aims to put together a framework containing certain conditions for the student properties, such as appropriate management of all blocks. Whereas Liverpool City Council do not want to stop developments for the student population, some consideration must be made regarding the impact on current communities, how to ensure sufficient management is in place, and the cumulative effect of many different developments being carried out at the same time in close proximity. Cllr Frank Hont noted that students not only bring a lot of funds and vibrancy to Liverpool, but also many stay and become entrepreneurs that contribute significantly to the city. Lynne Condell, from John Morres University, noted that student accommodation is often not effective in teaching students to manage their money, meaning that developing these skills is put off. Access to support such as the Financial Capability Hub upon leaving such accommodation can be very valuable in these circumstances.
Cllr Frank Hont stated that the term ‘National Housing Crisis’ is not necessarily appropriate as each city has its own housing crisis. Government legislation is often skewed towards the capital and as such the devolution of some powers has been requested, which would allow for some decisions regarding housing to be made by Liverpool City Council without approaching government. A response is expected before the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Cllr Frank Hont noted that he has seen a lot of change and progress in the past 5 years, particularly regarding homelessness and Livberpool City Council’s ‘No more than one night on the street’ policy and its active and reactionary response to rough sleepers. There have also been very successful regeneration activities in areas such as Anfield, Norris Green and Granby, with Granby’s regeneration project nominated for a Turner Prize and one street competing for Street of the Year.
Cllr Frank Hont noted that partnerships with the Citizens Advice Liverpool and other third sector organisations remain vital in supporting Liverpool citizens with housing issues and driving forward improvements.