Welcome and introductions
Kelda welcomed everyone to the meeting.
In attendance: Kelda McMichael (SHR), Stephen Lalley (SHR), Leonora Montgomery, John MacKenzie, June Anderson, Margaret Dymond, Shona Gorman, John Duffy, Liz Richardson, Bill Campbell
Observing: Helen Trouten Torres, Colin Stewart (SHR board members), Evie Copland (SHR)
Declaration of interests & minutes of last meeting
There were no declarations made which were relevant to the agenda items. The minutes of the last meeting were accepted.
1. National report on the Scottish Social Housing Charter
Stephen summarised the headlines which emerged from the national report on landlord performance in achieving the standards and outcomes of the Scottish Social Housing Charter. This generated discussion among the group about landlords’ performance during the last 18 months, including comments around the communication and support landlords offered to their tenants, particularly those who are vulnerable, rent increases and the associated consultations, and wider tenant participation opportunities.
Stephen also shared the headline findings from the COVID-19 quarterly return, following the publication of the dashboard data in August 2021. This included data on rent arrears, lets and homelessness. Ahead of the meeting, the group had asked to discuss shared accommodation for people experiencing homelessness; so Stephen explained that, as per the Scottish Government’s guidance on the extension of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order, local authorities are able to use shared tenancy as a model of temporary accommodation, so long as it meets the criteria set out in the guidance. In particular, the applicant’s explicit consent is required. The group discussed this, with particular concern expressed about ensuring applicants always have this choice, and that those with protected characteristics are considered. Stephen agreed to send a link to the UAO guidance as it includes further detail and case studies.
2. Other SHR updates
Kelda shared some of the findings from the Social Housing Resilience Group’s report on the impact of the pandemic on social landlords in Scotland, and also from the ZEST (Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce) report; both of which were published in August.
In terms of the ZEST report, the group expressed their disappointment that there was only one tenant representative on the taskforce. There was a suggestion that having representatives from across Scotland would have been more appropriate as each area is and will be affected differently. The group hope that future taskforces and working groups recognise the value of tenants’ contributions. This led to a discussion around rising energy prices and how this might affect the affordability of rents. Kelda reminded the group about SHR’s business planning guidance which highlights the importance of social landlords demonstrating transparency on costs and taking a vigorous approach to pursuing value for money, when they are deciding levels of rent increases. She also cited the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings Patrick Harvie’s recent comments that it is important that tackling climate change and achieving net zero emissions homes doesn’t lead to increased levels of fuel poverty. Again the group highlighted the differences across geographies when it comes to energy prices.
The group also discussed the rising cost of materials and how this was affecting landlords. Kelda highlighted Michael Cameron’s latest blog for Inside Housing which mentions this issue as one of the challenges facing social landlords at the moment. She also cited anecdotal evidence that landlords are experiencing delays in carrying out repairs and with their new build programmes due to global shortages of materials.
Kelda gave an update to the group on SHR’s Tenant Advisors, whose term of appointment ends at the end of March 2022. She explained that SHR has started to consider how SHR will recruit a fresh panel of Advisors who are service users and tenants of RSLs and local authorities across Scotland for a term of three years. The advertising campaign is likely to launch in the new year, with an expected start date in April 2022.
SHR has also started to plan for the next round of engagement with the National Panel of Tenants and Service Users, and so the group were asked to share their thoughts on what topics they think the Panel could cover this year. This generated discussion and ideas were shared by members, which Kelda said will be passed on to the team within SHR who lead on this.
Stephen reminded the group about the ongoing recruitment process for the two vacancies on SHR’s board, which is expected to conclude with the new appointments starting in November. Stephen also gave a short summary of the latest SHR board meeting minutes, from August 2021.
Stephen summarised the latest position with statutory intervention and updated engagement plans. This includes the continued statutory action at Fairfield Housing Association, and the updated engagement plans for both Forth and Charing Cross Housing Associations.
In terms of recent publications, Kelda told the group about the equalities guidance co-produced by SHR, SFHA, ALACHO and the Glasgow & West of Scotland Forum, a letter sent to all social landlords reminding them about their duties around gas safety, SHR’s response to the Local Governing, Housing and Planning Committee after its request for further information on SHR’s priorities, and the reports into the statutory interventions at Wishaw & District and Arklet Housing Associations. The latter generated some discussion about how and when SHR does decide to take statutory action. Kelda reminded the group about SHR’s 2018 publication setting out the lessons learned from the use of statutory intervention powers. She also explained that, in the vast majority of cases, the decision to intervene will follow a lengthy period of engagement with a landlord, during which SHR will have sought assurance that the issues of concern can and will be addressed. Kelda also reminded the group that there is a published report for each statutory intervention case available on SHR’s website, which explains the reason for the intervention and the outcome of it.
3. Region updates
Region 1 – Updates on individual landlords within the region were shared. This included the end of the strike action by Aberdeen City Council’s housing officers, and various pieces of work which residents groups in the Highlands and Islands have been involved to scrutinise their landlords’ services.
Region 2 – Region 2’s next meeting would be taking place the following week.
Region 3 – Updates from individual areas within the region. This includes an ongoing review of the Tenant Participation Strategy in East Renfrewshire, and a new housing application system in East Ayrshire which will be going live soon.
Region 4 – June was very pleased to report that Clackmannanshire Council had presented a proposed tenant engagement plan, setting out timescales for when they plan to undertake engagement across various topics.
The group provisionally agreed meeting dates for 2022, and agreed to invite Michael Cameron and George Walker to the next meeting in January.
Date of next meeting
- 18 January 2022