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Introduction

This agreement sets out the defining principles that guide, shape and influence the practical application of this partnership between Wyre Forest District Council (WFDC) and those Registered Providers who are signatories. It provides a framework within which the District Council in its role as a strategic enabling authority and RPs as providers of affordable housing, will work together to provide housing and services that meet local needs and contribute to the well being of the community. RP partners are key delivery agents of the actions in the Worcestershire Housing and Homelessness Strategies, of which the District Council is a participating authority.

The principal aim of the partnership is to achieve consistency in the quality and standard of the provision of affordable housing in the District, through both development and management activity.

The agreement outlines the roles, responsibilities and expectations of the partnership between the District Council and the RPs, to establish a sound working relationship and equitable management practice between the organisations.

Eligibility

WFDC is committed to working in partnership with those RPs who have signed up to this agreement. Approaches by other RPs who wish to provide housing and related services in the District may be considered, subject to the following:

  • Proposals demonstrate value for money and cannot be bettered by existing partners.
  • The RP is able to comply with the Partnership agreement in full and demonstrates a long term commitment to the District.
  • The RP is able to facilitate development of affordable housing which would otherwise not be deliverable.
  • The RP is able to comply with any subsequent entry qualifications and conditions that are placed on RP activity within the District.
  • They are able to meet a specific need that cannot be met by existing partners.

Status and Operation of the Agreement

The agreement is not legally binding, but the Council will encourage all parties to implement it. There may however, be supplementary contracts and agreements with regards to specific projects and these may include:

  • Contracts and agreements relating to the sale of land to RPs
  • Planning agreements under s106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and NPPF

The Council’s Strategic and Enabling Role

The Council will continue to develop a strategic approach in assessing housing need and housing services in the District. RP partners are fully expected to fully engage with this agenda.

Strategic Role

The Council will:

  • Assess the operation of the wider housing market, and through ongoing research ensure that housing need across all the sectors is assessed; review this data on an ongoing basis to ensure it is up to date.
  • Participate fully as a member of the Worcestershire Delivery Group in order to implement the Worcestershire Delivery Plan.
  • Work in partnership to deliver the Worcestershire Housing and Homelessness Strategies.
  • Consider the needs of all groups within the District, e.g. general needs, BME groups, Gypsy and Travellers, households with supported housing requirements.
  • Conduct rural parish housing needs surveys
  • Consider the appropriate tenure split between affordable housing (rent and shared ownership/homebuy) and low cost market homes, based upon identified needs within the District.
  • Encourage the best use and management of existing housing stock and pursue the creation of accommodation from vacant and under-utilised housing stock, both in public and private sectors.
  • Liaise with the Homes and Community Agency, neighbouring authorities, the Health authorities, Police, Social Services, Probation and Voluntary Organisations regarding the provision of housing, support and care, and the varying statutory responsibilities.
  • Embed housing and related issues into corporate and partnership strategies.

Enabling Role

In order to fulfil its enabling role the Council will:

Where available, maximise available resources for the benefit of housing in the District,

  • Identify, assemble and dispose of suitable land in its ownership
  • Utilise planning policies to maximise the provision of affordable housing where appropriate within the District.
  • Promote the work of the RPs within the District
  • Seek to ensure that there is no inappropriate competition between Partners

There can be no presumption by developers that funding will be available for the delivery of affordable housing on s106 sites.

Principal Responsibilities of RP Partners

As signatories to the Housing Partnership agreement, RPs will work closely with WFDC, statutory and voluntary sector partners.

In fulfilling their role, RP signatories to this agreement will:

  • Develop housing to Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) standards and request or notify of any waivers granted by the HCA.
  • Comply with and supply such information as is required by WFDC’s monitoring requirements.
  • Advise the Council of sites and property purchases under consideration so as to avoid duplication of effort and inappropriate competition.
  • Discuss all proposals with WFDC at the earliest opportunity and deal with development opportunities in accordance with the Council’s Affordable Housing toolkit (to be replaced by the Affordable Housing SPD).
  • Make reasonable endeavours to complete all legal agreements and comply with all planning conditions in a timely manner.
  • Comply with planning agreements drafted by WFDC and consider and notify them of need for any necessary variations at the earliest stage.
  • Work with WFDC’s other RP partners and enter into joint developments, and work in partnership with specialist RPs, voluntary and statutory organisations as appropriate.
  • Deliver WFDC and HCA funded development programmes within agreed timescales and in accordance with the agreed guidelines.
  • Ensure that appropriate signage, including acknowledgment of WFDC appears on all development sites in receipt of HCA and WFDC funding.
  • Have a formal complaints procedure, which is published and freely available to customers.
  • Ensure the views and requirements of tenants and customers are fully considered and provide the Council with information on customer satisfaction including new housing developments.
  • Inform the Council of significant areas of new policy.
  • Participate in liaison meetings with the Council and an Annual Review Process.

Planning issues

The planning system has an important role to play and the Council will actively seek the provision of good quality affordable homes to meet identified needs. The following means will be used to maximise the provision of good quality affordable housing:

  • Negotiation with developers and land owners for an element of social housing on allocated residential and windfall sites where there is proven housing need, in line with national and local planning policies.
  • Identification of rural exception sites for affordable housing to meet local need by carrying out parish surveys and liaison with parish councils.
  • Provision of prompt advice on planning matters at an early stage and throughout the planning process.
  • Supporting housing market assessments to provide detailed information on housing needs.
  • Acknowledgment by WFDC of the requirement for certain wording to be included in Section 106 agreements to ensure the RP signatories to the Housing Partnership agreement can purchase the land and put the land into charge in accordance with the prescribed requirements of typical RP lenders in the market.

In policy formulation and planning application negotiations, reference will be made to the following and any subsequent new legislation or policy:

The National Planning Policy Framework (2012)

The Wyre Forest District Adopted Core Strategy (December 2010)The Wyre Forest Dsitrict Site Allocations and Policies Local Plan (July 2013)

The Kidderminster Central Area Action Plan (July 2013) (where a site falls within the area covered by the document)

The Affordable Housing SPD (following adoption)Housing Needs

Wyre Forest District is part of the Worcestershire Housing Market Area.  A Strategic Housing Market Assessment was undertaken by GVA and published in February 2012.The SHMA  provides a comprehensive assessment of housing needs in the Wyre Forest housing market area. The research is updated annually and is used to inform planning policy, the Worcestershire Housing Strategy and specific development briefs for housing sites.

Nomination arrangements and the letting of affordable housing

Registered Providers are expected to give consideration to the Wyre Forest Tenancy Strategy (published May 2012) which sets out:

  • The types of tenancy the District Council would like RPs to use
  • The use of affordable rent
  • Encouraging mobility in social housing
  • Procedures around disposal of stock in the district
  • Use of local lettings plans

Registered Providers will be expected to offer at least 75% of their new lettings and relets as nominations but it is expected that 100% nominations will be provided on the first lettings of new sites which have benefit of Council or HCA funding. These percentages are net of mutual exchanges and internal transfers. Less than 75% nominations on relets may be agreed in exceptional circumstances.

Registered Providers partners are expected to participate in the Worcestershire Choice Based Lettings System, also known as Home Choice Plus (or any successor Housing Register). This will include policy and operational contributions as all partners are expected to sign up to the Home Choice Plus Allocations Policy, undertake lettings and agree to nominations from the Home Choice Plus register.

Supported Housing

The Council will work with its partners to develop supported housing proposals in line with the priorities identified through housing needs assessments and priorities contained within the Worcestershire Housing and Homelessness Strategies. RPs wishing to develop supported housing proposals must either have experience with a good track record of delivery, or should work in partnership with specialist agencies. Support may also be given to specialist supported housing agencies that are not members of the partnership. Any proposals for supported housing schemes must clearly demonstrate robust funding proposals to the Council and meet identified needs.

Affordability

Affordable housing for rent must conform with the following:

Social Rent: The Regulatory Framework for social housing in England from April 2012, Annex A – Rent Standard Guidance

Affordable Rent: The Regulatory Framework for social housing in England from April 2012, Annex 5 – RICS guidance on valuation for Affordable Rent

It is also expected that RP partners take the Wyre Forest District Councils Tenancy Strategy into account.

The Councils toolkit for Affordable Housing is to assist RPs in negotiating land and property values with developers in order to maintain them at affordable price levels. This is of significance to both social rented and shared ownership (Homebuy) schemes. The toolkit will be kept under review. In line with the WFDC tenancy strategy, affordable rent will not be accepted as a tenure on Section 106 sites.

In developing new schemes, RP partners also need to consider the cost of living in the properties developed and the introduction of cost-effective and energy-saving measures that can reduce the running costs of properties.

Dwelling Space Standards and Design Issues

A list of minimum floor areas required by the Council is included in Appendix 1, but these may be subject to certain exceptions by agreement, e.g.

  • Homes purchase as ‘Existing Satisfactory Dwellings’ and ‘Purchase and Repair’
  • Homes purchased ‘Off the Shelf’
  • Shared housing for supported housing

It is expected that furniture layouts for all habitable rooms and internal storage facilities will be shown clearly on plans. This is to illustrate how the rooms can sensibly accommodate the necessary furniture and equipment associated with specific room activities and is suitable for the particular needs of the intended user group.

Development Standards

All partners shall aim to provide innovative, well designed, cost effective means of providing affordable housing. At the inception of a scheme, partners will liaise with the Councils Principal Strategic Housing Officer to determine the suitability of a scheme and this line of communication should be maintained throughout the development process.

All schemes will as a minimum, meet the Homes and Community Agencies Housing Quality Indicators and the principles set out in the Design and Quality Standards. Partners are expected to try and achieve the highest quality of internal and external design, using sustainable materials and meeting the enhanced standards set out below. However, the Council recognises that there may be overriding reasons that may exempt individual schemes from some of these standards, and this will need to be identified on a site by site basis. The Council will consider with its partners how best to maintain standards to Design and Quality standards level for shared ownership schemes and will explore the possibility of using planning conditions to achieve this.

  1. Lifetime Homes – it is expected that all new commissioned developments in so far as possible will meet the 16 point Lifetime Home Standards set out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the publication ‘Designing Lifetime Homes’ (Appendix 2).
  2. Community Safety and Security – All schemes should seek to meet the objectives of the Secure by Design Principles
  3. Sustainable Homes

Regular Partnership Engagement

RP partners are requested to provide the following:

  • Copies of key policies and procedures relating to housing management and development, and significant changes particularly if they impact upon the operation of a local scheme
  • A copy of their annual report and report to tenants
  • Copies of any tenants newsletters circulated in the District
  • A copy of diversity and equality policies and policies relating to BME groups
  • Result of the analysis of any tenant satisfaction surveys undertaken in the District
  • Copies of the results of tenant satisfaction surveys on new developments, where applicable.

The Council will hold two RP meetings each year for the purpose of a two way dialogue on policy, strategy and operational issues that affect the District with a particular focus upon the development of new affordable housing units.

An annual meeting will be arranged for each partner to enable a discussion to take place on performance, strategy, policy and other matters of mutual interest.

Sustainable Development and the Community

The conservation and sustainable use of natural resources and minimisation of environmental pollution are objectives that need careful consideration by all partners. The Council has statutory developments to improve domestic energy consumption and an environmental protection role, and has developed a Sustainable Development Plan and Affordable Warmth strategy which addresses these issues.

RPs will assist in developing and implementing the Council’s environmental and sustainability policies relating to housing as far as practicable. In particular, RP’s will be required  to meet the Core Strategy DPD CP01: Delivering Sustainable Development Standards which states that ‘All new development proposals within the District must demonstrate how they reduce their impact on the environment. The design, layout, siting, orientation, construction method and materials used should seek to maximise energy conservation and efficiency.’  In addition, CP)1 encourages higher Code levels than are mandatory stating that ‘Developers will be encouraged to meet a higher Code level than is mandatory where this is economically viable’.

Local Economy

In the interests of developing sustainable communities, the relationship between capital investment in housing and job training, through new build, refurbishment or maintenance work, should be maximised.

To this end, RP partners are required to consider the use of local labour and training schemes both in new developments and maintenance contracts. Participation in any programmes that encourage and facilitate the use of local labour and training will ensure that investment opportunities will be maximised through partnership working.

Appendix 1 - Dwelling Space Standards

All schemes should seek to meet the following minimum standards:

Size of Property

Min metre Sq.

1 bed, 2 person flat

45

2 bed, 3 person flat

55

1 bed, 2 person flat

50

2 bed, 3 person house

65

2 bed, 4 person house

71

3 bed, 4 person house

75

3 bed, 5 person house

81

4 bed, 6 person house

96

1 bed, 2 person bungalow

45

2 bed, 3 person bungalow

56

These areas are a minimum and do not allow for Lifetime Homes space standards, which will require increase space dependent upon the design of particular units.

The Council recognises that there will be exceptional circumstances where it will not be possible to meet these minimum standards and these should be discussed with the Council at the earliest opportunity.

Appendix 2 - Lifetime Homes

The list below summarises the 16 key features of the Lifetime Homes Standard. Please refer to the documentation produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for more detail.

  1. Car parking adjacent to the home, should be capable of enlargement to attain 330mm
  2. The distance from car parking space should be kept to a minimum and should be level or gently sloping
  3. The approaches to all entrances should be level or gently sloping
  4. All entrances should be illuminated, have level access over the threshold and have a covered main entrance
  5. Communal stairs should provide easy access and where homes are reached by lift, it should be fully wheelchair accessible
  6. Width of the doorways and hallways should conform to the specifications
  7. There should be space for turning a wheelchair in dining areas and living rooms and adequate circulation space for wheel chairs elsewhere
  8. The living rooms should be at entrance level
  9. In houses of two or more storeys, there should be space on the entrance level that could be used as a convenient bed space
  10. There should be a wheelchair accessible entrance level WC, with drainage provision enabling a shower to be fitted in future
  11. Walls in bathrooms and toilets should be capable of taking adaptations such as handrails
  12. The design should incorporate provision for the future stair lift, a suitably identified space for a through-the-floor lift from the ground to the first floor, for example to a bedroom, next to a bathroom
  13. The design should provide for a reasonable route for a potential hoist from the main bedroom to the bathroom
  14. The bathroom should be designed to incorporate ease of access to the bath, WC and wash basin
  15. Living room window glazing should begin at 800mm or lower and windows should be easy to open/operate

Switches, sockets, ventilation and service controls should be at a height usable by all (i.e. 450 and 1200mm from the floor).

Appendix 3 - Wyre Forest District Council Sustainability Issues

The main factors for considering the sustainability and the suitability of the development sites are set our below:

Neighbourhood – does the scheme form part of an existing neighbourhood with an established community – is the scale in keeping?

Mix of Community – does the neighbourhood contain a mix of community, tenures and house types?

Community Facilities – what access is there to community facilities for people to meet and are there activities for different age groups? What is the availability of facilities within walking distance or accessible by public transport such as local shops, banks, post office, medical facilities, child care, play facilities, school, places of worship, pubs, clubs, etc?

Education – do the local schools have capacity for expansion and are they accessible by walking or public transport?

Training – what is the availability of opportunities for local employment training? Are any opportunities built into this scheme?

Access to Jobs – what is the availability of a range of employment opportunities appropriate to local people which are accessible by foot/cycle or public transport?

Crime and Disorder – is the scheme in an area where crime levels are above the local average? There may be a need for consultation with the Police, community and tenant involvement – has this taken place or what mechanisms are in place to deal with this?

Regeneration – is the scheme part of a wider regeneration initiative with a range of partners and funding with coherent plans and if so, how does it plan to address local problems?

Partnership working – Is there scope for the involvement of local people in the design and management of the development? What are the arrangements for access to management staff and tenant participation?

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