The Housing Strategy and Enabling Team Leader presented the proposed updates to the Housing Allocations Policy. Officers had been reviewing the policy and the flexibilities provided to Councils in the Localism Act 2011 and the report highlighted changes that officers were proposing to the policy to reflect this.
Following the publication of the agenda for the Executive Committee meeting Officers had suggested further changes to the policy which were circulated for Members’ consideration in a written handout (Appendix 1). This suggested that applicants who were volunteers must be volunteering with a registered charity at the point of application for their status as a volunteer to be taken into account. The changes also removed reference to lone parents who were the primary carer of a child in receipt of child benefit for that child.
The Housing Strategy and Enabling Team Leader highlighted the following additional changes to the policy that were proposed in the report:
· Officers were proposing that an applicant should have a local connection to be eligible to apply for affordable housing, unless they could be categorised as having a “reasonable preference” in line with legislation. Under the existing policy anybody could apply for affordable housing form the Council.
· Officers were proposing to replace the current gold, silver and bronze banding system with bands 1 to 6. Those in band 1 would be those considered to be most in need. Those in Band 4 were in a reduced priority band but might have a “reasonable preference”. Band 5 related to applicants with few issues and band 6 would encompass applicants who had access to their own financial resources.
· It was proposed that the bedroom standard should change to mirror requirements in the Housing Benefits system. Under these arrangements children of the same sex could be expected to share a room up to the age of 16 whilst those of different sexes would be expected to share a room up to the age of 10.
· It was proposed that key workers, such as nurses should be provided with additional preference to help access housing. Officers had incorporated the HMRC’s definition of a key worker into the policy
· The minimum age of applicants would rise from 16 to 18, should the proposed changes in the policy be agreed. The earliest that a young person could secure a tenancy was at the age of 18 so this change would reflect that. Care leavers would be excluded from this policy requirement.
Following the presentation of the report Members discussed the proposed changes to the policy in some detail and highlighted a number of points:
· The need for a Housing Allocations Policy that would be fair to applicants. Members expressed the hope that the changes to the policy would make it fairer for Redditch residents.
· The change to the policy that recognised the role of key workers. Members welcomed this proposed amendment and noted that key workers made a valuable contribution to the local community.
· The crisis in housing at a national level and the action that needed to be taken to ensure affordable housing was available to those who needed it.
· The work that had been undertaken over a series of months to update the Council’s Housing Allocations Policy.
· The approach that the Council would adopt to distributing properties amongst applicants in the different bands. Officers advised that the properties would be allocated to those in most need through band first and the remaining properties would be allocated through the choice based lettings system. There was no proposal to allocate percentages to different bands
· The number of bids for properties that applicants could place, should the proposed changes to the policy be agreed. Officers advised that applicants would retain the right to make two bids for different properties per week.
· The consultation process in respect of the proposed changes to the policy, who would be engaged and how. Officers explained that a questionnaire would be accessible on the Council’s website, through social media and in a paper form.
During consideration of this item an amendment was proposed by Councillor Bill Hartnett, which involved the introduction of an additional recommendation. This was seconded by Councillor Greg Chance.
The proposed additional recommendation stated the following:
“The results of the consultation on the Housing Allocations Policy 2019 are brought back to the Executive for consideration, then go forward to Council.”
In proposing the new recommendation Councillor Hartnett explained that he felt it was important for the Executive Committee and Council to have a chance to see the final draft of the Housing Allocations Policy before it was enacted.
Members discussed the proposed amendment and in so doing noted that the Housing Allocations Policy would need to return to the Executive Committee and Council anyway for approval in line with the requirements of the decision making process. As this involved changes to the Council’s policy framework a final decision would always have to be taken by Council. Therefore a number of Members rejected the proposal as being unnecessary.
On being put to the vote the proposed amendment was lost.
1) the draft Housing Allocations Policy 2019 be consulted upon for a six week period and;
2) the consultation questions (detailed at Appendix 2 to the report) be approved.