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Agenda item

Draft Housing Allocations' Policy - July 2019

Summary:

 

The Housing Allocations’ Policy was adopted by the General Assembly of the Council on 18 March 2013 as the Council’s framework for the allocation and management of future tenancies from 29 April 2013.  Subsequent reviews of the Policy were carried out in March 2014 and September 2018.

 

In order to ensure a consistent approach, a further review of the Policy has been undertaken and changes made, where appropriate, to reflect new legislation and operational methods.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the Cabinet agree the amendments to the Housing Allocations’ Policy as set out in the body of the report and approve the revised Policy, attached at Appendix A to the report.

 

 

Minutes:

The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager presented a report which detailed the outcome of the latest review of the Housing Allocations’ Policy which had been originally adopted by the Council on 18th March 2013 as the Council’s framework for the allocation and management of the future allocation of properties. All housing authorities were required to have a Housing Allocations’ Policy setting out how social housing properties would be allocated to eligible applicants in housing need. The policy had subsequently been reviewed in 2014 and 2018. In order to ensure a consistent approach a further review of the policy had been undertaken and amendments made, where appropriate, to reflect operational changes (including working practices) following the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and the new policy met the requirements of current legislation. The report detailed the proposed changes to the Housing Allocations’ Policy and the general layout had also been revised to ensure ease of understanding, clarity and transparency. 

 

A Member said that sometimes people in Band A on the housing priority list had to wait a long time before a property became available to meet their specific needs. He wondered whether a way could be found to speed up this process, perhaps by increasing the budget. The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager explained that where an applicant had a medical or welfare need this went through a medical assessment process and a property then had to be identified to meet those medical needs. It could take some time to find a property that met those needs or could be adapted to do so. An Occupational Health Therapist was embedded in the Housing Solutions Team to make the medical assessment process as speedy as possible.

 

Another Member referred to the process by which the Council allocated properties, detailed in section 5 of the report. She said that this involved bidding for properties using the internet but asked whether there were other ways of bidding for those without access to the internet as this did not appear to be stated anywhere. The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager explained that the Council is a member of Kent Homechoice, a Kent-wide choice based lettings scheme, and that Kent Homechoice had focussed on internet applications as it had found that other methods of applying were not being used. However the Housing Solutions Team would accept requests by telephone and would also fill in forms for those unable to do so by themselves on request and the telephone number was widely available. The Member also sought and received clarification on the circumstances in which an applicant might be removed from the Band A listing.

 

A Member asked for clarification of one of the criteria in Annex 2 regarding the assessment of people who needed to move on medical or welfare grounds  in Band A and the meaning of criteria e, ‘severe and enduring mental health issues significantly affected by current accommodation’. In particular he asked whether this could be expanded to include aftercare registration under section 117 of the Mental Health Act for people being discharged from hospital. The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager explained that the application of this criteria was quite rare and would be applied on a case by case basis. Medical staff were involved in making assessments and a member of the hospital discharge team was also embedded in the Homlessness hub and these arrangements went much further than those of other authorities. The Chairman suggested that the Member might wish to discuss his suggestion with the Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager outside of the meeting as the discussion was becoming quite technical.      

 

A Member asked what information was available to explain the options and to provide help and advice to applicants as she had not been aware of these herself. She asked whether Members could be supplied with some kind of fact sheet which they could use when advising constituents. The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager explained that the information was mainly provided on the Council’s web site and that there was a telephone number which was widely known to the various agencies involved with lettings but that she would be happy to explore other methods of communication if Members could suggest these. She also stressed the importance of fostering digital inclusion as a reason why much of the information was available electronically. There was a Kent Homechoice leaflet which provided more information and it was agreed that this should be sent to all Councillors to assist them in dealing with enquiries from constituents.

 

A Member noted the provisions in Annex 4 of the policy to reward ‘Community Contribution’ and that this gave priority to those in work. She asked how well this was working in practice. The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager explained that this had been introduced following the introduction of the Localism Act but that ‘community contribution’ was not limited to working households but also sought to recognise wider contributions from volunteers, carers, adopters and service personnel. A Member asked how the Council ensured that people who were unable to work were not overlooked. It was explained that people who were unable to work were more likely to be captured under the various medical criteria and to be given a Band A priority.        

 

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report and noted the issues raised by Members, which would be reported to Cabinet.    

 

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