The Housing Act (1996) requires all housing authorities to have a scheme for determining priorities and procedures in allocating social housing. The Council's existing Allocations Policy was last reviewed in 2014 and does not include legislative changes such as the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017) or the Right to Move (2015) statutory guidance.
In addition, changes to the service have followed the 2015 Vanguard intervention which are not reflected in the current policy. The following outlines all the changes made in the new Allocations Policy.
The new policy now includes the following legislation and statutory guidance:
The Allocation of Housing (Qualification Criteria for Right to Move) (England) Regulations 2015
Statutory guidance on social housing allocations for local authorities in England: Improving Access to Social Housing for Victims of Domestic Abuse in Refuges or Other Types of Temporary Accommodation (November 2018)
It also includes the Government's proposals (not yet legislation) for assigning a priority to divorced or separated spouses of those serving in the Armed Forces.
The outcome of the Vanguard intervention identified new ways of working, one was the 'Housing Options Method'. This method is an information and advice process to prevent homelessness before it occurs through understanding the customer's personal circumstances and helping them explore all housing options.
The existing policy does not allow for Officers to fully understand the customer's needs and simply requests that an application form is completed. The new policy allows for flexibility in that a drop-in service is available where customers can come and speak to an Officer and are guided through the process.
Should customers be eligible for housing, the new policy uses the 'Best Match Method' to allocate accommodation. This method is where accommodation is allocated to the most suitable applicant in the highest band working down through the housing waiting list. This is different to the existing policy in that customers use 'choice-based letting' to 'bid' for properties, often resulting in a misunderstanding of the suitability of the property.
The existing policy bands are 'urgent, high, medium and low'. It was identified that some customers felt that being put in the 'low' band made them feel like they would not ever be housed and were considered to be an insignificant priority. This often leads to waste work which in few cases changed the outcome. Therefore, the new policy has renamed the bands by simply lettering them A – D. the 'A' band replaces 'urgent' through to 'D' band replacing 'low'.
Some other, less weighty changes have been made to the policy to give Officers more support and guidance to in turn help customers make an informed housing choice: