We introduced a new allocations policy in 2016 and have reviewed how it is working. As a result we have made a number of changes to improve the system for everyone and these took effect from 8th August 2018. A summary of the changes is set out below.

The Executive report with the review findings and the full details can be found at item 04.

1. Transfers

There are problems with the way that these applications are dealt with at the moment which prevent some people being able to bid for a property that they would be eligible for. The “like for like” transfer category will be removed and replaced with an “other” category to resolve this.

Transfer categories will then be as follows (in order of priority):

  1. Under-occupation.
  2. Two-for-one moves.
  3. Making best use of adapted properties.
  4. People with children in above-first-floor flats.
  5. Moves for good housing management reasons.
  6. Other.

2. Under-occupiers

Tenants who live in properties with three or more bedrooms and have spare rooms will be helped to move somewhere smaller by enabling them to bid for a property with up to one bedroom more than they need. This will only be considered when there would be high demand for the property that the tenant would be vacating.

3. Bidding policy

Many people have told us they are frustrated that they can’t bid for properties that are advertised to a band lower than them, even though they accept that they may not have a great chance of getting the property. For example people in band two can’t bid for a property that is advertised for band three.

This will be changed so that anyone will be able to place a bid on any property as long as they meet any other criteria, for example age restrictions or size and letting guidelines. Priority will still go to people in the band that the property is advertised for but if no-one in that bands is interested then people in higher bands will be considered.

Shortlisting will be arranged according to the following table. (Age designated properties will be shortlisted in the same way as for band one).

Priority Preferred band
Transfer Band one Band two Band three
First Transfer Band one Band two Band three
Second Band one Band two Band three Band one
Third Band two Band three Band one Band two
Fourth Band three Transfer Transfer Transfer
Fifth Band four Band four Band four Band four

4. People housed through HomeChoice

Once an applicant accepts a tenancy allocated through HomeChoice they will normally have to wait 12 months before being able to go back onto the housing register.

Exceptions will only be agreed in limited circumstances, broadly speaking this would mean statutory overcrowding, medical or welfare need or homelessness.

5. Financial resources

The policy already has a rule that people with sufficient income and savings to rent privately should be given less preference. This will be clarified by specifying that it means a gross income of more than £30,000 a year for a single applicant or £50,000 for a couple or savings/assets worth more than £16,000. People in this position will be placed in band four.

This restriction may be removed for individual cases in exceptional circumstances.

6. Children above ground floor

There are three separate changes being made here:

  • In future it will only apply to children above the first floor rather than above the ground floor
  • The band 3 category will apply, not just to “private tenants”, but also to council and housing association tenants from outside the district with a local connection (or exempt from local connection rules).
  • Applicants in this transfer band category will only be considered for a move to a lower floor.

7. Housing-related debt

The definition of housing-related debt is going to be broadened to include housing-related debts owed to private landlords, building societies, banks and other lenders.

Housing-related debts that actually resulted in an eviction will be considered unacceptable behaviour and dealt with in accordance with the “Unacceptable behaviour” policy (see 12 below) with two exceptions:

  • Where the applicant has kept to an arrangement with the landlord and has reduced the debt by at least 50% at the time of the application; or
  • Where the applicant is assessed and found to be unintentionally homelessness.

People will no longer be demoted by a band for housing-related debts. An applicant with a combined housing-related debt exceeding £500 will be suspended from being able to bid until either the debt is brought below that figure or the applicant has made an agreement to pay off the debt and has kept to it for at least 13 consecutive weeks.

Exceptions to this will be considered on a case-by-case basis by a senior officer in conjunction with the body to whom the debt is owed. In particular this may apply to tenants being affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy who are trying to keep up with their rent payments.

8. Split households

Where people living separately wish to live together, if both parties are social housing tenants they are banded as a transfer “two for one” move. For others in this situation a joint application will be registered to the address that would attract the lower banding were the parties to move in together.

Where an offer of accommodation is made both parties must sign up to a joint tenancy. If either party moves out or seeks to terminate the tenancy and leave the other in occupation during the first twelve months of the tenancy a fraud investigation will be initiated.  

9. Definition of “child"

There is a lack of consistency in the policy in that “child” is defined as under 16 years of age but “dependant” is defined as under 18 years of age. We will bring these into line by defining both as “someone younger than 16” across the whole policy.

10. Multiple needs

A new category is to be created in each of bands two and three for multiple needs. This will have priority over applicants with only one need regardless of time on the list although within the multiple need category if there is more than one applicant they will be prioritised by time on the list.

Only needs within the band will be considered. So:

  • Someone with both a band two and a band three need will go into band two under the category of their band two need;
  • Someone with two or more band two needs will go into “Band two-multiple need”; and
  • Someone with two or more band three needs will go into “Band three-multiple need”.

11. Refusals

An applicant will be suspended from bidding for a period of three months if they have refused three offers of suitable accommodation that they have placed bids on in any six month period.

12. Unacceptable behaviour

The policy is to exclude people from the register for two years if they have been guilty of unacceptable behaviour but the present wording is a bit ambiguous so it will be changed to make it clear that:

  • It applies to anyone, not just to people who were not council or housing association tenants at the time of the behaviour.
  • Existing applicants can be excluded where the behaviour occurs or comes to light after the applicant has been accepted onto the register.
  • The period of two years can be extended if the applicant’s behaviour has not changed in that time.

13. Changes to the Allocations Policy

The Head of Housing Services has delegated authority, in consultation with the Housing & Property Portfolio Holder, to make minor policy changes from time to time.

Bigger changes would still need approval by Executive and Council.

14. Demolition and regeneration

Where the council is planning to demolish a tenant’s home or regenerate an area resulting in one or more tenants losing their home, affected tenants will be placed in band one.

15  Move-on applications

Move-on applicants will go into band two instead of band one.

16. Threat of violence and harassment

A new band one category will be created for serious cases to try to assist with a move through the housing register without forcing the applicant into homelessness. This will also include requests for rehousing that are supported by the Police or a formally established organisation such as the Risk Assessment Management Panel under the countywide Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) or the National Witness Support Scheme.

Less serious cases may go in band two under the “welfare need” category.

17. Fostering and adopting

Applicants who need more bedrooms because they have been approved by the relevant agencies to foster or adopt a child or children will be eligible for a number of bedrooms that will provide space for the child/children in accordance with the bedroom need rules.

If the number of bedrooms in their current property is less than the number that they are assessed as needing, the applicant will be banded as overcrowded.

The child does not have to be living with the applicant at the time of the application but the approval for fostering or adoption must be evidenced and the intention to adopt or foster the child must be apparent.

18. Ex-partners of serving or former armed forces personnel

An ex-partner of a serving or former armed forces member will be assessed for local connection and banding, as if their ex-partner were still a part of the household. This is conditional upon them having been living with their then-partner while he or she was serving in the forces for a period of at least six months at the time that they separated.

19. Homelessness Reduction Act 2017

Applicants owed the new prevention or relief duties will be placed in band two.

20. Overcrowding

Applicants with statutory overcrowding, as assessed by an Environmental Health Officer, will be placed in band one. Applicants classed as  overcrowded under the more generous policy bedroom standard will continue to be in band two.