Oxford City Council has opened a public consultation on a five-year plan to tackle the city’s housing and homelessness crisis.
The council’s draft housing, homelessness and rough sleeping strategy 2023-2028 sets out its intentions to provide more affordable and low-carbon homes, improve conditions for renters in all tenures 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 for rough sleeping. While there is no legal need for a housing strategy, there is a strong correlation between housing, homelessness and rough sleeping.
Last year the council undertook a review of housing and homelessness which produced an evidence base, a draft vision and five emerging priorities. These were endorsed in an initial round of public consultation last summer.
Vision and priorities
The council’s vision for the new combined strategy is as follows:
‘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 end of pandemic support measures and a rapidly unfolding cost of living crisis is likely to increase demand for council services in what is already a challenging financial climate. 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 and that services will use the experience of supporting Oxford residents during the pandemic to become more locally focused. The council is also investing £51 million in maintenance, refurbishments and improvements to estates in the next four years. Adoption of a citywide selective licensing scheme in 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 the decade. The council will invest £8.7 million to improve energy efficiency in council homes and 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, a 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.
Consultation is now open on the council’s consultation portal and will close at 23:59 on Thursday, 08 December. People who are unable to complete online consultation should phone 01865 252173 or email StrategyandEnabling@oxford.gov.uk
As part of the consultation process, the council is also engaging with key stakeholders to seek their views on the proposed strategy.
The council will update the evidence base and strategy in light of consultation responses – ahead of implementation in 2023.
“The rapidly rising cost of living means these are challenging times for many people in Oxford and for the council, too. But we are determined to do what we can to meet those challenges and tackle our city’s housing and homelessness crisis.
“We’re building a new generation of low carbon council homes that will help us meet our target of net zero carbon by 2040, improving conditions for renters in all tenures, and doing more than ever before, to prevent and reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.
“These are all vitally important if we are to deliver better outcomes for people in Oxford. We think our draft strategy will do that, and we’d really like to hear your views on our plans. Please take part in our consultation – your voice matters.”
—Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing