Revised Housing Allocation Scheme
The Committee were presented with a report that outlined the final version of the Council's Housing Allocations Scheme as discussed and agreed by the Housing Services Committee in November 2020. It summarised the responses received following a 20-week public consultation period. The revised scheme provided a greater degree of clarity than the current scheme whilst also ensuring that those with the greatest housing need were assisted in order of defined priorities. The changes to the policy would ensure that the Council’s Housing Allocations Scheme met the requirements of current legislation, guidance and good practice to provide a clear and comprehensive scheme which described how the Council would assess and prioritise the demand from applicants for limited social housing within the Borough.
The Service Manager (Housing Options) provided Members with a presentation which outlined key points from the Councils Housing Allocation Scheme.
The presentation has been published and can be accessed through the below link:
Before opening up the item for questions, the Chair advised that Members previous comments had been taken on board during the creation of the Scheme. Addressing a previous raised concern, the Chair advised that any residents taken off of the register would receive written communication in the post as well as an email to explain why they had been removed from the register.
The Assistant Director (Housing) further explained that the document had been delayed a year due to combination of factors, but the document was better for it and input from Members had helped to shape a robust and relevant scheme for Gravesham. .
The Service Manager (Housing Options) and the Assistant Director (Housing) fielded questions from the Committee and explained that:
- The Policy had to have a certain degree of discretion as it would be unlawful if there were no ways the Council could make discretionary decisions in certain exceptional circumstances. The Policy was designed in such a way that made it clear how the Council were prioritising people but the ability to make discretionary decisions allowed officers to assist residents that may be in a difficult situationthat wouldn’t usually be able to be helped due to the Policy. However, there were still checks and balances within the Policy as to how it was being implemented and the terms of reference would be sent to a Housing Allocation Panel; a document would also be shared with the Committee so that Members understood how decisions were made on a case-by-case basis. The discretionary powers had to be used consistently otherwise they would be unlawful.
- People had a right to refuse the properties they were offered; they would be given a chance to present evidence to the Housing Allocations Panel as to why the property being offered was not suitable for their needs. The Panel would use all evidence presented to make an informed decision about whether or not the offer was suitable and if the applicant should remain on the housing register.
- Membership of the Housing Allocation Panel was extended to include an external senior officer, but it was not appropriate to have Members sit on that Panel; the inclusion of senior manager, outside Housing Services, helped to add balance to the Panel
- People were not being pushed outside of the Borough by the team however there would be occasions where a person on the list would be given only one offer and if they refused then they might be suspended from the register. The law required the team to be clear when offering properties and the possible consequences the person faced if they refused the property; in the past some people had refused too many houses which meant the Council had no further duty to provide support
- With regards to Brexit, historically EU nationals had the rights to free movement, to work and to access benefits/housing assistance. Following the 01 January 2021, EU nationals no longer had the right to be placed on the housing register. The Council encouraged EU nationals to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before the June 2021 deadline so that they could retain their rights. Those that missed the deadline and did not register would be treated like nationals from other countries; unless they had immigration status, they would not be entitled to assistance from Housing Services
- Concerning a previous question regarding the rights of Afghan citizens, extra provision was introduced to the immigration rules on 01 October 2013 which gave Afghan citizens who helped the UK try to stabilise Afghanistan relations at that time the right to live in the UK
- With regards to residents being informed of the consequences of turning down an offer, it was advised that the website was updated, and it was policy to ensure that the resident receiving the offer completely understood that they may be suspended from the register if they refused the housing offer
- Within the Policy there was provision for foster care children, if a child had returned from foster care to a family that was on the register then the child would be considered part of that household; confirmation from the social care provider would be needed
- The Housing Allocation Panel would meet on a case-by-case basis as well as when appeals were received
The Chair thanked the Service Manager (Housing Options) for an informative presentation; the Committee were informed that Services Manager (Housing Options) was leaving his post and his replacement was due to attend the next housing Services Cabinet Committee.
The Service Manager (Housing Options) thanked the Committee for working with him during his short time at Gravesham Borough Council.
The Chair agreed to consider the points that had been raised by Members prior to approving the Policy as she had delegated authority as the Cabinet Member for Housing Services.
- 220126 Housing Services Committee Report - Housing Allocations Scheme, item 30. PDF 93 KB
- Appendix 2 - Housing Allocations Scheme Final DK.docx, item 30. PDF 528 KB
- Allocation Scheme.4.2.21, item 30. PDF 141 KB