THE rules around the allocation of council housing have been tightened up by New Forest District Council in an effort to ensure properties go to those most in need.
All current applicants must re-register with the authority by December in order to join the new register, and while some may find they climb the priority list, others will fall back in the queue.
The allocation system uses a banding system to decide who needs housing the most, with band one for those with top priority and band four for those with the least need.
Previously, the majority of applicants sat in Band 3, with just a select few making it into the top exceptional status band, and the length of time they had been on the list was the main determining factor in the allocation of housing.
However, under the new rules there will be more of an even spread across the bands.
Cllr Jill Cleary, New Forest District Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “This change is really important. This new way of allocating housing will mean that applicants are given appropriate priority to enable the most effective use of our housing stock, and so the people most in need of social housing are given priority.
“We need to make sure that social housing is allocated to those who have a genuine need for it, and at their time of need. This will mean that some applicants will see an increase in the priority awarded and others may see a decrease in their priority.
“With up to 400 properties each year becoming available it’s important we have an allocation policy that fairly allocates housing based on genuine need.”
Changes to the allocation criteria include who qualifies for housing, how many bedrooms applicants are entitled to, definitions of a household and register suspensions.
As before, applicants will need to be aged 16 or over, and have a local connection as well as a housing need. They must also lack financial means to resolve that need.
Band 1 will be for people with the most pressing ‘emergency’ need, such as urgent health or wellbeing requirements caused or “substantially worsened by their home circumstances”, whose existing premises is in a state of emergency disrepair.
Those who have to move “to escape violence or threats of violence, harassment or a traumatic event in the home” also qualify.
Band 2 is for those classed as having ‘serious needs’, which includes existing tenants under-occupying by two or more bedrooms or already “severely overcrowded” or assessed as ready to move on with supported housing.
Band 3 is for those who have a ‘need’, for example homeless, serving or former serving armed forces members – or their spouses – or key workers that need to be housed to maintain an “essential public service” in the Forest.
Those with the lowest need will be put into Band 4. That includes people deemed to have the least health needs, who share households or essential services with friends, who do not have the money to buy their own home or are intentionally homeless.
The changes also outline a host of rules and states applicants can be removed from the register should they break any of them.
As part of NFDC’s public consultation over the changes, 249 responses were received over two months – mostly from housing applicants but also organisations including Radian housing association. The rules were backed by between 63% and 86% of respondents, some of whom said they would be fairer.
However, there were also concerns about reducing emphasis on the length of time spent on the housing register, and the potential impact on the ability to have family, such as grandchildren, to visit those allocated smaller homes.
There were also complaints from private renters that they would be penalised on the housing register because they could afford a home on the open market.