1. Approved the Housing Allocation Scheme attached in appendix 1 of the report.
Officers advised that the current scheme framework comprised taking the housing register application and then asking for supporting information. Clients were awarded one of five bands of priority and could, in some cases, wait up to 7 years before being housed permanently. The current bands ranged from emergency priority to the lowest band of reduced priority.
The proposed new scheme would require a six-year continuous residency in Havering other than for exceptions such as members of the armed forces. The financial cap had been increased to £50k per client with £30k of savings.
The proposed new bands with examples of who would be eligible were as follows:
Band 1 – Those at risk of harm, moving as part of a decant or with severe medical issues.
Band 2a – Armed forces personnel, care leavers, disabled households
Band 2b – Foster carers, downsizers
Band 2C – Volunteers, carers
Band 3 – Homeless households, clients with moderate medical needs, clients affected by overcrowding
An Opportunities Register would also be created for unsuccessful applicants to the housing register in order to promote a wide range of alternative housing options including shared ownership, private sale and intermediate rent.
It was confirmed that the new scheme met the residency requirements of recent case law. The new application process would be on-line and be able to provide applicants with an indicative banding. The impact of the new bands had been assessed with for example care leavers likely to experience slightly longer waiting times. Clients awaiting the release of adapted properties would not be greatly impacted by the new scheme.
There would be a low impact on volunteers seeking housing although carers could see some extension in waiting times. It was hoped the new scheme would go live on 28 January 2022.
Councillor Chapman added that the new scheme represented to build on the fairness of allocations. The impact of the pandemic on housing was now being seen but priority for housing would continue to be given to armed forces personnel, care leavers (reflecting the Council’s corporate parenting role) and disabled people. Housing allocation would take place in an open and transparent way.
Officers emphasised that they had sought to include appropriate exemptions to the residency requirement and to allow applicants with levels of finances to still access the register. The income cap of £50k related to the gross income of the household seeking accommodation. A residency requirement of 10 years was proposed in the consultation but responses indicated that this would exclude too many people. Hence the proposal was to continue with the existing 6 years residency requirement.
A Member expressed disappointment that the details of the scheme had only come to the Board shortly before the Cabinet meeting. Different views were expressed about what should be the desired length of residency. The establishment of the Housing Opportunities Register was seen as a positive development.
Officers added that the policy sought to manage applicants’ expectations and sought to meet the needs of people on the waiting ... view the full minutes text for item 23