Agenda item

Update on Allocations Policy Consultation

Decision:

Members noted the outcome of the Housing Allocations Scheme consultation and agreed to the next steps to progress the Housing Allocations Scheme as outlined within the report.

Minutes:

Further to minute 25 (12.02.2020), the Committee received a summary of the responses received during the 20 week public consultation period together with the draft framework for the revised Housing Allocations Scheme. The revised scheme will provide a greater degree of clarity than the current scheme whilst also ensuring that those with the greatest housing need are assisted in order of defined priorities. The proposed changes will ensure that the Council’s Housing Allocations Scheme meets the requirements of current legislation, guidance and good practice to provide a clear and comprehensive scheme which describes how the Council will assess and prioritise the demand from applicants for limited social housing within the Borough.

 

The Committee received a short presentation from the Service Manager (Housing Options) summarising the process to date together with the next steps as detailed below:-

 

·         to undertaken further work to refine the document with colleagues, senior managers and the department;

·         to undertake a Equality Impact Assessment;

·         to present the final version of the scheme to the Housing Services Cabinet Committee on 4 February 2021; and

·         to present the final version of the scheme to the Cabinet on 22 February 2021 with a recommendation to adopt the revised scheme to enable it to be implemented in April 2021.

 

The Committee considered the revised scheme and highlighted the following:-

 

·         there was a typographical error on agenda page 29 (third paragraph), it should state ‘….their status as a jobseeker or an initial three months’ right of residence…. ‘;

·         there was a typographical error on agenda page 35 (last paragraph of section 3.5), it should state ‘….they will not be included on your Housing Register application; and they will not be…. ‘;

·         concern was expressed regarding the change to refusal sanctions/applicants being suspended from the housing register for 12 months if they refuse a suitable offer. Previously, there had been some flexibility on the number of refusals as it was acknowledged that some properties may not be suitable. These sanctions would usually result in Member involvement so there needed to be transparency. The Committee was advised that discretion would be taken however there needed to be a fine balance to ensure that there was no impact on the housing register, length of turnaround time, rent loss etc. The use of the Locata system and setting applicants preferences would also help to mitigate against any suitable offers being refused;

·         would the Housing Allocation Panel be made up of internal and/or external representatives and would there be any expenditure relating to the setting up/membership of this Panel. The Committee was advised that the Panel would be made up of internal officers from a variety of relevant teams within the Council and that there would be no expenditure relating to the setting up/membership of this Panel. The Panel will add a level of transparency and ensure that there is a consistent approach;

·         concern was expressed regarding the lack of responses to the consultation. The Committee was advised that the consultation period was extended and the Council actively reached out to a wide range of partners, landlords, statutory services and local community groups;

·         concern was expressed regarding the qualifying length of residence or employment in the Borough changing from 2 years to 3 years. There may be an individual/family that has a strong need but their local connection is less than 3 years compared to an individual/family that a lesser need however their local connection is more than 3 years. The Committee was advised that a certain level of discretion had been built in to the policy so that cases can be viewed taking individual personal circumstances in to account;

·         no pressure to be put on individuals/families to downsize;

·         reference be made to gypsy and travellers; and

·         concern was expressed regarding specific reference being made to ‘Afghan citizen‘ (agenda page 28, section 4.2). The Committee was advised this reference was set out in current legislation therefore the Council must comply with it.

 

A Member of the Committee expressed concern regarding some of the responses provided by officers. The Chair advised that she would deal with the Member‘s concerns outside the meeting.

 

The Committee commended the work that had been undertaken to date in producing a clear and complex document.

 

Resolved that the outcome of the consultation be noted and the next steps to progress the Housing Allocations Scheme as set out in Section 4 of the report be agreed. 

 

Supporting documents: