Agenda item

Allocations Policy (Agenda Item 7)

Report of Elizabeth Gould, Executive Member for Planning & Environmental Services.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Planning & Environmental Health presented the report.  The new Policy would contribute to a better use of housing stock and provide a clear and transparent scheme which would remove false hope.  The Policy would enable a more personal and stress free, streamlined process.  By adopting a more realistic approach, the waiting list would be shortened and those that were removed from the list would be offered advice on alternative options.

 

The Executive Member then asked the Principal Housing Officer to explain a few technical points.

 

The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy & Enabling) had taken expert legal advice and in view of new case law emerging, following the introduction of the Localism Act, two minor and one major amendment were proposed to the Policy.

 

The two minor amendments were explained.  They required:

 

a)                   the addition of  the words ‘or non-qualifying’ to the paragraph title at the top of page 15 of the report for applicants with no local connection; and

b)                   the addition of the word ‘or’ after the first three bullet points under the title of Local connection on page 17, to clarify that only one of the criteria was needed to qualify for having local connection.

 

The more major amendment was required to address the reasonable preference given to the banding of applicants.  An additional band needed to be added to cover applicants that did not have any reasonable preference.  Those applicants would not be active applications on the housing register.   Subject to those amendments, Members were asked to support the recommendation for the policy to be adopted by Council.

 

The Executive Member for Internal Services raised the following points:

 

  • Was the Council responsible for the housing of 16 and 17 year olds?
    - that duty was with Social Services who acted in loco parentis, but Breckland assisted the County Council in finding accommodation for them.

 

  • Would the changes to Benefits increase the number of Hostel places required?
    - there was likely to be an increase in people sharing accommodation in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) or in lodgings.  Until the changes came in it was impossible to judge what impact that might have on the Housing scheme.

 

  • How was the health and safety risk (referred to in the third bullet point on page 17) assessed?
    - the assessment would be made by a member of the Private Sector Housing Team but it was clarified that that would be on a re-active rather than pro-active basis.  If applicants came to the Council requiring a move because of poor conditions the property would be assessed, but the Council would not force people to move if they wanted to stay in unsuitable accommodation, although they might have to take action on the conditions.

 

  • Why were unborn children not taken into consideration regarding overcrowding?
    - Until the baby was born the Council had no duty to provide a bedroom for it.  Responses to overcrowding issues were similar to the condition of a property.  If notified of a situation the Council would visit and take action if necessary.

 

The Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission drew attention to the fact that the policy had been looked at in detail through the scrutiny process.  The previous housing list had included people with no chance of being housed.  That would be changed by the new Policy which required a close local connection.  He was happy with the proposed amendments and endorsed the recommendation.

 

The Chairman drew attention to the recommendation from the Overview & Scrutiny Commission at Agenda Item 10 and thanked the Task & Finish Group for their hard work.

 

Options

 

1.      To recommend the policy for adoption

2.      To propose changes to the policy and then recommend for adoption

3.      To propose that the existing policy remains unchanged

 

Reasons

 

The changes which had been considered by the Task and Finish group would reduce the register considerably along with offering guidance to individuals who would be affected by the changes. The new policy created a local flavour of priority for areas that were important to Members such as giving additional priority to care leavers, families wishing to foster and adding in a strong local connection of 3 years before applicants could be considered for the housing register.

 

RESOLVED to RECOMMEND TO COUNCIL that the Allocations Policy be adopted subject to the following amendments:

 

  1. Section 3 – Eligibility heading Notifying an ineligible customer – amend to read Notifying an ineligible or non-qualifying customer

 

  1. Section 4 – Assessment of Housing Need - add a fourth banding, under Emergency, Gold and Silver entitled Applicants who do not have a reasonable preference

 

  1. Section 5 – Assessment of Applications under Local Connection - add the word or to the end of the first three bullet points.

Supporting documents: