Agenda item

Magna Housing Association

An update from Christine Boland, Interim Director of Housing Services.


Christine was welcomed to the meeting and advised that there had been no Magna update since 2019.


Comments were made as follows:-


·       Housing stock is limited, and the population is sparse. The Exmoor population is in decline and likely to reduce further if families cannot be housed within their village. Villages will die, schools will close, and the economy will suffer. The Exmoor Housing Policy needs to be reviewed.

·       Concern was raised around allocations via Homefinder Plus. The view was that local families with strong connections to the parishes were being overlooked in favour of candidates from outside the area.

·       These families invariably brought problems into the locality as they were not accustomed to living in such rural communities. Some were very isolated with no means of transport, and no access to public services. They also couldn’t access support such as mental health or social services. Even getting children to school was a concern with no means to transport them there. This often led to Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) and neighbour disputes because the new family felt displaced and not accepted.

·       If local people are not getting housed via Homefinder can the reasons be made clear, and how can they improve their chances? Would letters of support from a parish council help?

·       The police commented that a high proportion of the ASB they had to deal with usually resulted from these “fish out of water” tenants. They do not have the cultural support or services nearby that look after them. Housing policy should be supportive of local lettings.

·       Rural communities do not cater for vulnerabilities and mental health issues in the same way that can be accessed in urban centres. These people need to be near their support networks.

·       Homefinder is looking at its letting policies and is also trying to make the application process easier. It is aware that young people are not applying because they can’t or won’t engage with the system. A user group regularly reviews the process, to try and simplify and or improve the online forms.

·       It was stressed that it is important for people to register with Homefinder so that housing need can be determined. Analytics are often carried out using the data from Homefinder to assess whether there is a need for housing in certain parishes, and what type of accommodation is required.

·       The criteria for how Homefinder determines its housing allocations is done collaboratively via the four Somerset District Councils. Registered Social Landlords such as Magna do have an influence, but ultimately the responsibility is with Somerset West and Taunton in this area.

·       Orchard Way Timberscombe – Various issues of concern were raised following storms Dudley/Eunice and the fact that many elderly residents were without power for 72 hours. Western Power Distribution did their best, but there wasn’t a Magna response. These residents were simply forgotten – what happened?

·       Christine apologised and said that Magna was dealing with many sites over that time period in what was an exceptional civic emergency. A collaborative approach is needed to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future.

·       Ensure that Magna is informed of the situation as early as possible so that support can be given.

·       Ensure that Disaster Recovery Response plans are in place and are regularly monitored. The parish council should have emergency plans – can these contact details please be passed to Magna so they have these on file? In the event of an emergency a local contact point has been established.


Christine was thanked for attending and left the meeting.



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