Consultation on plans to overhaul Hackney's housing register launched
Ed Sheridan, LDRS
- Credit: Archant
The Town Hall has launched a consultation on proposals that could see up to 7,000 households removed from the borough’s waiting list for a council home.
Housing needs boss and deputy mayor Rebecca Rennison stressed that the decision is being taken to divert council resources spent on managing the 13,000-plus list to more targeted housing support.
The Town Hall says many people on the list face years of waiting with very little hope of ever securing a home.
It is therefore consulting on plans to focus only on households in “the greatest need”, for instance because of overcrowding, medical or social reasons.
Families currently waiting in the lower priority bands are unlikely to qualify for the new scheme.
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Similar proposals aimed at tackling waiting times for housing by narrowing criteria were floated in neighbouring Tower Hamlets last year.
Cllr Rennison said: “My feeling about social housing is it should be there for absolutely everyone. Everyone should be able to access and have a right to social housing. What we face is an increasingly scarce resource, and what I worry about is that split between the easy option [of doing nothing] and the more honest option.
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“We could continue as we are, but it takes a lot of resources to maintain that list as it stands, and that is resources we are not spending on working with households on their housing options."
She said she feels “very uncomfortable with giving people the false expectation that they will get a home when we know, with the waiting times and the scale of the register, they won’t".
There are now 13,400 households on the waiting list for around 40,000 social housing stock properties in Hackney, with the register growing each year. Additionally, just over 600 properties became available this year.
The current system sees people allocated to one of five bands of priority: Emergency, Urgent Need, Homeless Priority, General Housing Needs and Reserve.
The new scheme would see applicants split into three new bands: A, for emergencies; B, for people with a significant need; and C, who have a specific need for a restricted type of accommodation.
Under the current allocations scheme, households can refuse up to three offers of a suitable home. The Town Hall’s proposals would reduce this number from three to two, with a single offer made to homeless households if a direct offer is made.
The LDRS has reported in the past on households in temporary accommodation which have been deemed ‘intentionally homeless’ through refusing direct offers for homes by the council.
The consultation reads: “While every household on the current housing register has a level of housing need, the existing allocations scheme and shortage of available accommodation means that many households in the lower priority bands are highly unlikely to ever secure accommodation through the scheme.
“This can create false expectations among applicants, who make a time and emotional commitment in placing bids without reward. As the number of households on the housing register has grown, this has also become more complicated and resource intensive to administer, with increases in enquiries and complaints."
Redirecting the resources to "more effective support and advice" would include personalised and dedicated housing advice, help in finding suitable accommodation in the private rented sector, and help for families looking to downsize.
Plans to review the social rented allocation process were mentioned in Hackney Labour’s 2018 manifesto.
The administrative shift in forming the new register would see everyone except those in temporary accommodation having to reapply, with the Town Hall planning to contact everyone directly to ensure those who qualify transfer to the new list.
The deputy mayor added: “If we get this right, what we want this to be is not the feeling, ‘I will never get a home’, but the feeling of, ‘I now have options and more control over what is going to happen to me rather than just being on this list and nothing is happening’."
Find out more at consultation.hackney.gov.uk or by calling 020 8356 2929.
Q&A sessions will also be held on January 12 from 7pm to 8.30pm, January 27 from 12 noon to 1.30pm, February 9 from 6pm to 7.30pm and February 24 from 4.30pm to 6pm.
Pre-register to attend at https://consultation.hackney.gov.uk