Oxford City Council is set to launch a new five-year plan to tackle the city’s housing and homelessness crisis.
Last night (Wednesday 15 March), cabinet voted to adopt the Housing, homelessness and rough sleeping strategy 2023-2028. This sets out the council’s intentions to provide more affordable and low carbon homes, improve conditions for renters and do more to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping.
As the housing authority for Oxford, the council is legally required to have a homelessness strategy and a strategy on rough sleeping. While there is no legal need for a housing strategy, the new combined strategy aims to provide joined up solutions to the housing and homelessness challenges facing Oxford.
Vision And Priorities
The council’s vision for the combined strategy is:
‘By 2028, addressing Oxford’s need for more affordable housing, improving the standard of housing in the city while lowering its carbon impact, with services and partnerships that are focussed on preventing people losing their homes, rapidly rehouse those who become homeless, and ending the need to sleep rough.’
The five priority areas flowing from this vision are:
- providing more, affordable homes
- great homes for all
- housing for a net zero carbon future
- preventing homelessness and adopting a rapid rehousing response
- ending rough sleeping
The impact of the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis are increasing demand for services in an already challenging financial climate for the council. Continued service transformation and partnership working will be paramount in helping the council rise to these challenges and deliver solutions to its five priorities.
Providing more, affordable homes means the council’s housing company OX Place will deliver the biggest council house building programme since the 1970s. Working with housing associations, the council’s target is for 1,600 new affordable homes by the end of 2025/26 – with at least 850 of these let at social rent. The council will also work with neighbouring councils to help ensure that more affordable housing is built in and around Oxford.
Great homes for all means that council tenants will have more say in the way their homes and communities are managed. The council is also investing £51m on maintenance, refurbishments to council homes and improvements to estates in the next four years. Adoption of a citywide selective licensing scheme last September means Oxford is the only council in England requiring a licence for all private rented homes and its licensing schemes will improve conditions for private rented tenants.
OX Place’s new homes will be a key part of delivering housing for a net zero carbon future, Standards for new developments will go beyond government targets, with OX Place aiming for zero carbon by the end of this decade. The council will invest £8.7m to improve energy efficiency in council homes. It will also work to improve energy ratings for privately rented and owner occupied homes.
The council will put preventing homelessness and adopting a rapid rehousing response at the heart of its services. Early, joined-up intervention will sustain tenancies and prevent people from becoming homeless. Where this is unavoidable, people will be helped into a stable, suitable home as quickly as possible.
Ending rough sleeping is also a national priority and the council aims to ensure that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford. A new £3.8m ‘housing led’ service tackling homelessness across Oxfordshire was launched in April. The Oxfordshire Homelessness Alliance’s default model for preventing and reducing rough sleeping is to provide settled homes as a first step in the road away from life on the streets.
Full council will vote to ratify cabinet’s decision to adopt the strategy next Monday (20 March). Implementation will begin in April.
Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing, said: “While we often talk of Oxford’s housing crisis it can be easy to forget that this is not something abstract. It touches the lives of people in so many ways. From too many people experiencing rough sleeping to nearly a third of children living in poverty because of the cost of housing, it comes with a big human price tag.
“This is why I’m delighted that cabinet agreed to adopt our new five-year housing, homelessness and rough sleeping strategy last night. It will not be easy. The cost of living crisis hitting so many people so hard means more demand for council services, with our own finances stretched by inflation and the pandemic. This means carrying on work we’re already doing to bring you better services, as well as working with partners to deliver our vision and its five priorities.
“Next week, council will vote on adopting the new strategy and we will begin implementing it in April. That’s when the work really begins.”