Changes to the Council’s housing register will mean residents with an unrealistic prospect of successfully applying for a Council home will receive additional support to explore other options, under plans released today.
Under proposals to be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on Monday, thousands of households from the 13,400-strong waiting list who are not in the most urgent need will be removed and offered personalised support to explore other options to find a home – rather than spending years waiting in unsuitable housing.
The stark but necessary changes – which follow 11 years of Government funding cuts and little direct funding to the Council to build new social housing – will mean Council staff can prioritise more limited resources to help those in greatest need, such as those who are homeless, in an emergency or have a significant medical need.
The plans, which are similar to those already in place in many other boroughs, follow public consultation between December and March, with hundreds of residents responding. In response to feedback from residents, additional protection for households with children and carers looking after vulnerable children, as well as residents with medical needs, has been included.
Only 600 Council or social housing properties become available every year, leading to more than 100 people bidding for every single home – with many investing time and emotional energy in applications that have no realistic prospect of success as those with urgent needs are prioritised.
Despite the Council’s own in-house housebuilding programme – which receives no direct Government funding – demand still far outstrips supply, and will continue to increase.
Under the plans, from October, the number of bands in the council housing list will be reduced from five to three, plus a transitional band, and the complex points-based system replaced by priority status only. Lower priority households, based on their current circumstances, will no longer qualify for the new register. In addition, the number of times that a non-homeless household can refuse a suitable offer will be reduced.
Those removed from the register will be supported by a new Council team, which will offer new one-to-one sessions, better links to housing associations, and provide funding to carry out improvements to their existing home to relieve overcrowding. With fewer applications to process, Council staff will have more time to provide vital support and advice.
Even with these changes, households in urgent need will still wait around seven years to be housed, and homeless families will continue to wait an average of four years. The Council has repeatedly campaigned for additional Government investment in a new generation of social housebuilding to help meet demand.