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Public consultation opens on housing, homelessness & rough sleeping

Public consultation opens on housing, homelessness & rough sleeping
Th consultation is the first step in developing a new five-year strategy to provide joined-up solutions to the housing and homelessness challenges facing Oxford. Image: The Barton Park housing development in Oxford.

Following approval by cabinet last week, Oxford City Council is opening a public consultation on what should be included in a new housing, homelessness and rough sleeping strategy next year.

Consultation is the first step in developing a new five-year strategy to replace the current Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2018-21.

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, there is a strong correlation between housing, homelessness and rough sleeping. The council intends its new strategy to provide joined-up solutions to the housing and homelessness challenges facing Oxford.

To help shape the development of the new strategy, the council has undertaken a review of housing and homelessness in Oxford. This provides an evidence base for the consultation, which will ask the public for their views on a new vision and five emerging priority areas for action.

Vision and emerging priorities

According to the council, the draft vision for the new combined strategy is: “By 2030, meeting 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 rough sleeping.”

The five emerging priority areas flowing from this vision are:

  • building more, affordable homes
  • great homes for all
  • housing for a zero carbon future
  • preventing homelessness and adopting a rapid rehousing response
  • ending rough sleeping

The council has said that

In order to build more, affordable homes, its housing company, Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL), aims to deliver nearly 1,900 new homes – including a new generation of 1,100 council homes. The council will also work with housing associations and neighbouring councils to ensure that more affordable housing is built in and around Oxford in the next 10 years.

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. Comprehensive licensing schemes will improve conditions for private rented tenants.

To deliver housing for a zero carbon future, the council will invest to retrofit and in some cases rebuild council homes. Standards for new developments will go beyond government targets, with OCHL aiming for zero carbon by the end of the decade. The council will also work to improve energy ratings for privately rented homes.

The council will put preventing homelessness and adopting a rapid rehousing response at the heart of its services. The 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 by 2024. It is already working with local partners to deliver a countywide strategy for reducing rough sleeping. This will include providing settled homes as a first step in the road away from rough sleeping.

Take part

The consultation will open today (Tuesday 22 June) and close at midnight on Monday 02 August. People who want to take part can find more information and complete the consultation questionnaire at https://consultation.oxford.gov.uk/housing-services/homelessness-review-and-strategy-evidence-base

People who are unable to complete the questionnaire online should phone 01865 252173 or email StrategyandEnabling@oxford.gov.uk

Next steps

The council will use the results of the consultation to update the review, vision and priorities and prepare a draft strategy for further consultation this autumn. The new housing and homelessness strategy will then be approved and implemented early next year.

Councillor Diko Blackings, cabinet member for affordable housing, housing security and housing the homeless, said: “We’ve undertaken a thorough review of housing and homelessness in Oxford. We’re now asking people for their views on our draft vision and what we think should be key priorities for the coming years.

“The acute lack of affordable housing in Oxford helps fuel the threat of homelessness and rough sleeping, and we’re doing more than ever before to prevent homelessness. At the same time, we need to improve standards in our existing homes and ensure that new developments contribute towards our zero carbon targets. Our aim is to find joined-up answers and work more effectively towards meeting these challenges.

“Everybody has a part to play in helping us do this. Your view matters, so please tell us what you think. Once we’ve considered your feedback we’ll produce a draft housing, homelessness and rough sleeping strategy, which will go out for consultation this autumn.”

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