Agenda item

Council Housing Asset Management Strategy 2023-2033

Solihull Community Housing (SCH) and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) officers have been collaborating to produce a 10 year asset management strategy for the SMBC council housing stock managed by SCH. The draft strategy is attached at Appendix One and the three year Capital Investment Plan attached at Appendix Two. The purpose of this report is to seek any comments from Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board. 



SCH and Council officers have been collaborating to produce a 10-year asset management strategy for the Council housing stock managed by SCH.  The Draft Asset Management Strategy 2022-2033 was provided at Appendix 1 to the report for Member’s reference, with detail of the 3-year Capital Investment Plan attached at Appendix 2.  The purpose of the report was to receive feedback from Members of the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board on the draft strategy and Capital Investment Plan.


The Chief Executive and Executive Director (SCH) introduced the report to the Scrutiny Board and provided a PowerPoint presentation, which addressed the following areas:


·  Council Housing Asset management strategy 2023-2033 – Approach

·  National Context

·  Strategic Strategy Objectives

·  Customer Engagement

·  Planned 10 Year Capital Investment

Having received the introduction to the report and PowerPoint presentation, Members of the Scrutiny Board raised several questions pertinent to the report, Draft Asset Management Strategy and Capital Investment Plan, which in summary addressed the following issues:


Councillor Thomas raised several issues, referencing the draft Three Year Investment Plan, specifically the first objective ‘Intelligently invest sufficient resources to ensure our homes are safe, in good condition and are ‘desirable’ both now and in the future…’ noting that there was no accompanying definition of what was entailed, how the intelligence to be gathered would be used and what ultimately were the objectives.


Secondly, Councillor Thomas highlighted that the Draft Asset Management Strategy detailed the cost to retrofit properties to meet the net zero carbon target by 2041 as £234M (£12M per year), but later states that work would take place to deliver an £11M energy efficiency programme so that all properties were Band C by 2030 – initial focus on retrofit of the building fabric, smart controls and renewables. Councillor Thomas noted that this would leave a considerable amount of work to be undertaken in the last 10 years of the strategy in terms of expenditure and queried whether more grant funding was required to deliver this objective.


The Chief Executive, SCH advised that the reference to invest intelligently meant gathering evidence to gain an understanding of the performance of the housing stock to ensure wise investment decisions were made through the Capital Programme. The Executive Director, SCH confirmed regarding future ambitions and supporting funding that the £11M identified to attain Band C ratings by 2031 was already earmarked within the existing Capital Programme. If the net zero is identified as the highest priority programme in future years, then delivery of the programme would be accelerated to 2041 accompanied by increased investment.


Members were further informed that as technology was evolving at pace, SCH were prioritising delivery of insulation materials across the housing stock as well as external fabric works.  Regarding the stated ambitions reflecting all of the Council housing priorities, it was the case that more Housing Revenue Account (HRA) funding would be required for delivery or external funding secured to accelerate delivery of these objectives and priorities.


Councillor McLoughlin referenced the graph in the report detailing the year of construction across the current housing stock, noting that the number of properties constructed during pre-1965 to 1977 were greater than those constructed post 1999.  Councillor McLoughlin queried whether this was attributable to properties being sold, insufficient construction of new properties or a case of both scenarios combined.


Regarding EPC and housing stock energy efficiency ratings, Councillor McLoughlin stated concern at the apparent rising numbers of homes in high rise blocks which had poor quality and financial scores.  In terms of lead times and asset management acquisitions, high rise blocks were a cause for concern which required either the Council to put in place a plan and resources or for SCH to deliver the future direction of travel for high rise blocks in the borough.


The Chief Executive, SCH clarified that SCH was the delivery vehicle for the Council. However, high rise blocks were Council properties and legal responsibility for their management was assigned to the Council regarding stock condition and use of investment streams via the HRA, which was Council funding. As such, management of the Council housing stock in practical terms was a partnership arrangement between the Council and SCH.


Members were advised that the same could be said for housing supply in the borough.  Investment was required for maintenance of existing stock and for building new properties. As such, there was a partnership relationship between the Council and SCH with some constraints in terms of investment.  The Housing Strategy did, however, detail how the partnership could work effectively and invest intelligently.  The Chief Executive, SCH also highlighted that high rise blocks were the least fiscally viable housing stock under management.


The Executive Director, SCH confirmed that it was the case that there was more older property than new stock across the current housing portfolio.  Regarding EPC’s ratings, these were evaluated as part of the stock evaluation model, which comprised of categories A, B and C.  The stock evaluation rating of C was the lowest rating of performance. The challenges facing high rise blocks at this time included future investment streams and sources, high resident turnover rates and general stock condition.


Members were informed that the Investment Plan did include a section addressing high rise blocks, proposing the further development of a high-rise strategy over the longer term i.e. beyond the current 2–3-year timescale.


Regarding future new housing supply across the borough, it was the case that the one biggest challenge facing the Council was land availability. Accordingly, the Kingshurst Village development was significant in local authority terms for this reason. 


Councillor Qais sought further clarity as to how the Asset Management Strategy would be monitored over its 10-year life span to ensure it remained relevant to the boroughs needs and secondly, what communication and consultation channels were available to residents to input and receive feedback on strategy implementation.  The Chief Executive, SCH advised that there was a 3-year window for most of the expected delivery to be seen via the Improvement Plan.  Reporting would also take place to the SCH Board and Council on the delivery and progress of the Implementation Plan.  Residents would be updated on progress via newsletters, and a Residents Scrutiny Panel had also been established, which SCH engaged with on a regular basis.  Detailed monitoring reports would also be provided to the Residents Scrutiny Panel.


Councillor Thomas welcomed the recognition that 578 affordable social rented properties were required in the borough, and raised the following questions:


·  How would housing allocations for the north and south of the borough be assigned.

·  How many social rented properties were to be built.

·  Was there an intention to demolish and rebuild any high-rise blocks and, if applicable, what percentage?

The Chief Executive, SCH advised that a balance was to be achieved in the provision of new affordable social rented properties in the borough, which included further provision in the south of the borough.  The Asset Management Strategy was addressing investment to provide more affordable social rented housing, but such provision also entailed wider arrangements with other housing providers and cognisant of relevant planning regulations.


It was fully expected that a high-rise strategy would be in place over the next 10 years. It was too early at this stage to advise of any specific actions, but surveys and data gathering had commenced.


The Strategic Housing Lead further noted that the development of more social rented housing was not the sole responsibility of the Council and SCH, but rather was also applicable to Housing Association partners. The provision of social rented units in mixed communities was the ideal scenario, but there were apparent constraints in Solihull, such as Green Belt designation and competing for available land identified for national/ regional infrastructure projects.


Councillor Ryan welcomed the Draft Asset Management Strategy. With regard to the section in the strategy ‘Customer Views’, Councillor Ryan stated that residents feeling safe in their own homes and surrounding community public realm should be a high priority.  In the section Our Asset Management Strategic Objectives, objective 5 ‘Providing safe and attractive neighbourhoods that support thriving communities’, Councillor Ryan questioned how this objective would be achieved, noting that there was a potential for a profound, detrimental effect on mental health and physical well being of residents if they did not feel safe in their locality. 


Secondly, Councillor Ryan stated that any type of business required timeline and measurable targets for strategy delivery and would like to see such performance measures included in the Asset Management Strategy to review the future delivery of the various programmes within it.


In terms of consultation and engagement, Councillor Ryan queried how would the views of those people on the housing waiting list be gathered and by what means would they be consulted on the proposals within the Draft Asset Management Strategy.


The Chief Executive, SCH advised Members that SCH undertook regular surveys with their tenants, and tenants’ views on safety and feelings of safety were explored.  More SCH tenants reported to feel safe that was the case against the national benchmark. In wider surveys, tenant safety remained a top priority.


The Executive Director, SCH addressed the subject of measurable targets, explaining that a set of KPI’s was in place against the Asset Management Delivery Plan, which was assessed on an annual basis.  The KPI suite performance and results of the Tenant Satisfaction Survey would be reported publicly.  The Tenant Satisfaction Survey was also reported to the Council and would be made available to the Scrutiny Board. Furthermore, with regard to tenants’ safety, a range of specific measures were detailed in the Asset Management Strategy – Three Year Investment Plan, Objective 5 ‘Providing safe and attractive neighbourhoods that support thriving communities’, all of which were designed to help tenants feel safer in their locality as well as inside their homes.


Members were informed that there were approximately 2,800 people on the housing Waiting List. SCH collected data on their housing needs, which also informed how the future borough housing needs were to be met.


Councillor Mrs Holl-Allen questioned whether there was the means to demolish any of the existing high-rise blocks and secondly, noted that it was probable that the Covid-19 pandemic had hindered SCH in identifying what regular housing maintenance works were required on the housing stock during the pandemic period.


The Executive Director, SCH advised that the challenge presented by high rise blocks was the density of accommodation involved and the space available to replenish.  With over demand for current available housing in the borough, reducing capacity through high rise demolition was not an option.


Members were advised that all repairs continued to be undertaken during the Covid-19 pandemic. Only Capital improvement works were suspended based on sector guidance, with 70% of the Capital programme having continued to be delivered.  By October 2022, SCH had addressed the backlog in routine repairs, which was a good performance when viewed across the sector.


In respect of the Investment Plan, Councillor McLoughlin observed that the what, how and when type of information categories supporting the plan should be included.  Furthermore, it was important to document some issues, such as HRA borrowing, Public Sector Loans Board borrowing, associated costs and what further actions and resource was required from the Council to SCH to facilitate delivery. 


Councillor McLoughlin noted that land had been found for the Council strategically, but not for housing to be developed and questioned whether this would affect any more SCH planned deliverables e.g. delivery of Kingshurst Village.


The Chief Executive, SCH advised that Kingshurst Village, like every development scheme, was subject to fiscal evaluation and the wider national economic picture, which would have some bearing on the related financial modelling.


Councillor Pinwell summarised the key points arising from the discussion of the Draft Asset Management Strategy and Asset Management Strategy Three Year Investment Plan as follows:


-  There was strong endorsement of the priorities outlined in the Draft Asset Management Strategy.

-  EPCs in older housing stock was a key matter to be addressed.

-  Provision of new housing development, including affordable social rented was essential to the borough.

-  Tenants feeling safe in their homes and within the wider community was very important.

-  On-going tenant engagement and consultation was also highlighted.

Having reviewed and discussed the Council Housing Asset Management Strategy 2023-2033 report, the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board:




i.  To note the Draft Asset Management Strategy and Three- Year Capital Investment Plan, and to draw SCH’s attention to the comments arising from the Scrutiny Boards consideration of the report as detailed above.



Supporting documents: