Somerset Strategic Housing Group (SSHG)
The Somerset Strategic Housing Group is a long-standing group of officers representing Strategic Housing across each of the five District Councils. It also includes representation from the Registered Providers (as represented by Knightstone Housing) and Somerset County Council's Public Health and Adults and Health Commissioning departments.
SSHG provides a strategic steer for the Local Housing Authorities and housing providers and ensures that work is 'joined up' across the county. Recent and current work being delivered or commissioned through this group includes:-
- The Somerset Strategic Housing Framework
- Updated Homefinder Somerset policies (see below for more details)
- Financial Inclusion Strategy
- Completion of a Somerset Homelessness Strategy
- Other strategies which focus on housing for older and younger people
Somerset West Landlord and Tenant Services (SWeLT)
The SWeLT partnership was established in 2011 with the principal aim of working collectively across the Somerset West areas (incorporating the districts of Sedgemoor, Taunton Deane and West Somerset) seeking new and innovative ways of securing good quality, affordable private rented properties for people in housing need.
The partnership includes several key departments who work together to provide a comprehensive Tenancy Support Service for local landlords and tenants. This inludes the popular Landlord Accreditation Scheme, empty homes services with loans and grants, housing standards and housing options and advice teams.
The 2011 Census showed that a greater proportion of households are in private rented accommodation than was the case ten years earlier. Increasingly, Housing Options and Advice are looking towards the Private Rented Sector (PRS) as a realistic means of providing housing. In 2012/13, there were nearly twice as many homeless or potentially homeless households housed in the PRS by SWeLT than were accommodated by Registered Providers (previously known as Housing Associations).
A range of services have been set up to support and assist those in housing need, including:-
- insurance products for landlords and financial assistance through the Bond/Deposit scheme, which has assisted over 600 households since April 2012
- Free tenancy training, available through the Tenant Accreditation scheme, which has helped 41 applicants under the age of 35
- A referencing service recently developed via the Tenant Passport scheme, which is currently supporting eight local residents
Homefinder Somerset is a partnership of the five housing authorities and over 25 social housing providers in Somerset. The partnership has been in operation since December 2008 and has successfully housed over 14,000 applicants from the housing register.
It has a well established governance structure with a working group for landlords and local authority operational staff ,and a monitoring board where the overall performance of the choice-based letting (CBL) scheme and the combined allocation policy are monitored.
The scheme allows landlords to advertise 100% of their nominations through the system, and the vast majority of landlords do advertise all vacancies, to the benefit of applicants on the common housing register.