Housing allocation policy review following consultation

Published Tuesday, 18th June 2019

Front of new houses

More than 500 people participated in a consultation to develop changes to the housing allocation policy that will go before councillors next week.

The consultation in March sought the views of people who use or have used the housing allocation system, to find out how it could be improved or what worked well. Those comments have fed into the recommendations made as part of the policy review that will be presented at the cabinet meeting on 25 June.

Currently people who need assistance being housed can apply to the council and are given a priority rating of A to D, depending on their individual need and circumstance. The housing allocations policy outlines how the priority rating of each person, or family, is decided. There is currently an emergency banding for rare or exceptional cases.

Once each person or family has their banding, they can ‘bid’ or register their interest for available social housing under our choice based lettings (CBL) scheme. Three quarters of consultation respondents opted to keep the CBL system. Those living with a disability are currently matched with housing that suits their needs as opposed to using CBL.

Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with responsibility for housing, said: “This revision to our allocations policy is an important step in making sure that our limited housing stock goes to those who need it the most. It gives people who are homeless and those who are struggling to afford the cost of housing, a route to the support they need. A fundamental shift in our proposed approach is to change the way we work to more closely support applicants and move away from allocations feeling like an administrative process. The allocations policy cannot be viewed in isolation from the new administration's commitment to increasing the amount of housing available to those who really need it.”

Some of the proposed additions to the allocations policy include:

  • Those living with a disability are given equal opportunity to bid for available homes which are suitable to their needs.
  • Specific consideration of tenants of approved council regeneration schemes who have been served a 12 month demolition notice and wish to permanently leave the site.
  • Including households spending more than a third of their income on rent.
  • Inclusion of homeless prevention and relief duties in line with the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017

Some other proposed changes include:

  • To remove the current low band priority entirely. Those in this band will be offered support from the council in other ways.
  • Strengthening what constitutes a ‘local connection’ as those who do, receive priority over those who don’t. This includes increasing the amount of time someone needs to have worked in Southend-on-Sea from one year to three years. Volunteering in the borough by itself will no longer be enough to establish a local connection.

The consultation included a range of face-to-face and phone conversations with key groups, and an e-survey with the option of a phone call or paper version which was sent to tenants, current housing applicants, those who have applied for social housing in the past, council staff, South Essex Homes, Housing Associations and partner organisations.

The full report will be presented as part of the agenda for cabinet on Tuesday 25 June.