4 Dec 2009 11:06 AM
Greater council freedom on housing allocations

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 04 December 2009

Housing Minister John Healey has today given councils more flexibility in how they manage their waiting lists. He also called on councils to do more to tackle the myths and misunderstandings about housing waiting lists, so local people can have confidence that the system is fair.

Published today, new statutory guidance makes clear that those in greatest housing need must be given priority. But it also gives councils more freedom to allocate their homes according to needs specific to their local area.

Councils have said they will use this extra flexibility to prioritise families with local connections, those seeking local employment and to tackle overcrowding and under-occupation in their communities.

This includes:

Manchester City Council, who are planning to prioritise those who are working, volunteering or taking up training and educational opportunities;The London Borough of Newham, who plan to use revised allocation policies to tackle overcrowding;Bournemouth Borough Council, who plan to use the flexibilities to reduce the number of under-occupied homes; andTest Valley Borough Council, who are looking at the possibility of setting a quota for a proportion of their housing stock to be available to those with a connection to the local area.

The guidance also gives councils the responsibility to tackle the myths and misunderstanding surrounding allocations. Councils will be expected to consult their local communities on changes to their allocation policies, and inform local people about who is getting housing, ensuring allocation policies are better understood and have greater local legitimacy.

John Healey said:

"People must be given confidence that council homes in their area are allocated fairly. Councils must make sure people can see more clearly how homes are being allocated in their area.

"I'm giving councils greater leeway to do this. While priority will still be given to those in greatest housing need, they will now also be able to allocate according to needs specific to their local area.

"And with these greater freedoms, I expect councils to take greater responsibility in consulting with their communities, and explaining their allocation policies, to combat the myths and misunderstandings that often develop around council housing."

Today's announcement is part of the Government’s Housing Pledge to improve access to housing.

Earlier this week, Mr Healey launched the first-ever national crackdown on tenancy cheats, to recover up to 10,000 council and housing association homes from fraudulent subletting over this and next year, and release them to those in real need.

Since June, he has given the green light to £141million funding which, when match-funded by councils, is expected to build over 2,000 council homes and safeguard around 5,000 jobs, as part of the largest council house-building programme for nearly two decades – with a further £180m to follow.

And he has launched plans to dismantle the current council housing finance system and replace it with a clearer, more transparent system. Under the revised system, councils will finance their business through their own rents and revenue, in exchange for a one-off allocation of housing debt.

Notes to Editors

1. Other examples of how councils have said they propose to use this extra flexibility include:

Sheffield City Council, who plan to examine how they can use their allocation policies to improve access to employment opportunities;Gateshead Council, who are providing support for people in work or seeking work by introducing a policy to offer housing to key workers;Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, who are considering how they will use these flexibilities to tackle under and over-occupation of their housing, and meeting disabled peoples’ needs; andSouth Derbyshire District Council, who are examining how they can use their local lettings policies to ensure more mixed communities.

2. Examples of how councils are consulting and informing residents about the way they manage their council house waiting lists include:

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, which used residents surveys as part of a review of its Choice Based Lettings policy;

Sunderland City Council, which held online surveys of both members of the public and staff, and held consultations with housing associations and voluntary sector representatives in the area while drawing up their allocation scheme

3. Fair and flexible: Statutory guidance on social housing allocations for local authorities in England, guidance for councils on housing allocations, is published today and can be found at:

4. On Monday 30 November, John Healey launched the first-ever national crackdown on tenancy cheats. Details can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1397396

5. On 29 September, John Healey announced the second round of funding for the largest council house-building programme for nearly two decades. Details can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1346486

6. On 21 July, John Healey announced plans to overhaul the system of council housing finance. Details can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1291446


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