Discussion with Representatives from South Ribble Borough Council and Preston City Council
- Meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Task Group - Select Move 2021, Tuesday, 15th February 2022 6.30 pm (Item 12.)
Suzanne Ravenscroft – South Ribble’s Housing Options Team Leader. Councillor Nweeda Khan - Preston City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Social Justice, and John Cameron Preston City Council’s Senior Housing Advisory Officer to attend.
The Chair welcomed Suzanne Ravenscroft – South Ribble’s Housing Options Team Leader. Councillor Nweeda Khan - Preston City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Social Justice, and John Cameron Preston City Council’s Senior Housing Advisory Officer to the Task Group.
It was confirmed that no council in the partnership held a ‘difficult to let’ list, however, registered partners themselves were able to track and monitor performance.
It was uncertain as to which demographic used Select Move the most, although as each property listed on Select Move revealed the number of expressed interests. With the properties most popular were the two- and three-bedroom properties which had triple digits of expressed interest, whereas 1-bedroom flats were below 20. It was noted that as new properties are added daily, it reflected when the site was assessed.
Select Move featured new build homes, although they were heavily regulated, and required applicants to have a local connection and tied into Section 106’s which on occasion caused the property to need to be advertised multiple times, and when failed to be allocated would and consequently be listed outside the Partnership.
Preston acknowledged that they have assisted some providers to list properties on Select Move due to the limited administrative capacity.
Members discussed the definition of the Local Connection and raised examples that required clarification. It was felt that there was a misconception and belief that properties had been rented without a local connection to the borough.
It was said that migration out of Chorley as a percentage was higher than migration into the surrounding boroughs. The local connection criteria ranged from having immediate family or employment in the borough. Consideration and support was given for homeless referrals, armed forces members, and those fleeing domestic abuse and violence,
Properties were listed on Select Move for 5 days, there was no set day and time properties were added, and users were frequently advised to check frequently throughout the week for newly listed properties.
Members raised concerns that a significant amount of properties on Select Move did not have pictures and questioned if users were bidding blind on properties. It was clarified that stock photos would be used where possible, but there was a small amount of time between one tenant leaving and the next moving in, it would be difficult to have accurate pictures. There were also privacy and safety concerns with the exact location of the property known. It was acknowledged that efforts would be made to encourage Registered providers to use photos where possible. No user of Select Move was expected to blindly bid, every property was available to view before signing, and the user was able to refuse the property as Select Move was a choice-based service. However, three rejections would reduce their place on the list. Users that were inactive for six months would be notified that they risk being moved down the list, it was acknowledged that sometimes contact had been made retroactively.
It was highlighted that as of the 15 February, there were 17 properties available in Chorley, and only three lacked pictures.
In response to queries about renters that came with a challenge, including but not limited to anti-social behaviour, rent arrears or other unsavory elements, it was explained that the Councils possessed teams that provided support and to assist those in accessing related services, be it financial, mental health or addiction support. There was no concept of ‘lifetime bans’ for users, each case was reviewed periodically, with efforts made to remove barriers in place that would prevent active and positive engagement. It was the prerogative of the Councils to challenge the Registered Providers when necessary. There was an appeals process for those with troubled histories, the Council would support the prospective tenant.
It was acknowledged that there was more demand for houses than was able to be supplied. It was understood that it was difficult for those with families due to the high number of interest in properties, but it was not a unique issue for the region, but nationally.
It was confirmed that it was still Select Move’s policy that a homeowner was not an appropriate user unless there were particular needs, such as mobility issues that caused their current property to be ill-suitable, and they met the needs of sheltered accommodation or extra care.
The Social Prescribing Team at Chorley Council provided feedback to the Task Group that related to their experience with assisting residents to use Select Move. They suggested that there was a hub or drop in site available for those that were digitally excluded, or had issues accessing the website. It was confirmed that there was funding available and organizations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, and Help the Homeless provide help and assistance
An additional issue was raised that some had issues with logging in, remembering their user information, and some had difficulties due to having no access to a phone, or no access to credit on their phone.
It was confirmed that although the Council’s supported efforts to assist those that required specialised places, such as in the over 55 accommodation, it would be the Registered Providers that gave resistance and was strict with adhering to their criteria.
In addition, it was asked for the conditions for which the over 55 places were awarded to those younger. It was noted that it would be the RP’s that would push back and remain strict with their criteria.
It was agreed that the greatest issue impacting the users of Select move was the shortage of properties larger than two bedrooms, there was a significant demand and it was understood that some users faced disappointment and disenfranchisement.