COUNCILLORS have agreed new plans for a council to set up a social lettings agency in Hartlepool in a bid to develop a more “robust” housing service.
Housing chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council say there is a need because the last decade has seen the first rise in the percentage of households renting since 1918.
But officials say it is estimated 34.8 per cent of the private rented sector does not meet the Decent Homes Standard, therefore they believe by developing a social lettings agency there is scope to generate much-needed income while helping improve the quality, standard and management of private rented properties.
A report highlighted some of the problems experienced in town including; poor management, poor quality housing, unresponsive repairs and maintenance, high rent levels and the poor appearance of properties.
The new agency, using existing council staff, will provide similar services to a commercial ‘high street’ letting and managing agent but officials say the intention is not to undercut the market, but provide a competitive rate for the service.
The decision was taken by the finance and policy committee and officials say this current year will be a transitional one. Any income is dependent on the number of properties managed but the target for properties to be managed by the council is 70 in 2015-16 and up to 100 the year after.
The council will target existing landlords who have expressed an interest, empty houses and the wider market. Meanwhile, tenants who are facing homelessness, those who can’t afford to buy a home or who are finding it hard to secure a tenancy in the private sector will also be targeted.
Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, said: “The proposals provide important social benefits and will ensure a robust housing service able to meet the needs of service users into the future.
“The staffing resource being retained in the service is crucial to the development of the new services as they hold valuable skills and knowledge essential to the delivery of the new services.” Initial market testing showed an appetite from landlords for a “reliable and affordable lettings and management agency”.