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Agenda item

Amendments to the Housing Allocation Policy - January 2019

 

Cabinet Portfolio:                 Housing

Strategic Directorate:           Adult Care, Housing and Public Health

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report which was due to be considered by the Cabinet at its meeting on 21 January 2019 in respect of proposed amendments to the Housing Allocation Policy. It was reported that the Council was required to allocate Social Housing according to a published Allocations Policy.

 

Members noted that Rotherham’s Housing Allocation Policy was last fully reviewed in February 2017. The policy outlined who could seek re-housing through the local authority, the properties they could apply for and how people were prioritised for available homes. There were certain circumstances when the Allocation Policy needed to be adjusted, including when there were legislative changes, if there were changes in supply and demand or when equality data requires a change the way properties were allocated. The five proposed amendments addressed some of those issues and would also help to prevent homelessness earlier, reduce waiting time for households with a medical need and apply consistent approaches within the policy for people who wished to move to a smaller home.

 

Members welcomed the report and recommendations, applauding the approach to simplifying the process, but raised concerns in respect of the allocation of properties in small communities of older people to disruptive, young people. Reference was made to the problems that this caused those communities, councillors representing those communities and the officers in the Housing Services and the need to respect the rights of existing residents not to be disturbed by new residents who may not be best suited to a particular street or neighbourhood. In response, it was confirmed that officers vet individuals before they were offered a property, with the Area Housing Officer having the final decision in respect of allocating a property to an individual. Where there were concerns, those would be referred to a Head of Service to refuse a property. Tenancy Support Officers were available to assist in such circumstances and handle referrals. It was further explained by the Cabinet Member that properties were allocated on a basis of need, but there were occasions where things would go wrong and individuals would need to be supported through that process.

 

Following on, Members sought assurances in respect of the processes in place to support existing residents where problems arise from new residents in council housing. In response, it was confirmed that problems did occur and tenancy support officers were crucial in providing assistance to residents in such circumstances. More tenancy support officers had been recruited recently and would, following induction and training, be able to do more work on prevention and tenancy periods, both with Members and local communities.

 

In response to a question in respect of the allocation criteria for people from outside of the borough it was explained that applicants would have to have family resident in the borough or work within the borough for the previous three years. Eligibility was detailed in the local connection criteria of the policy and applicants would not be eligible if they could not demonstrate a local connection. A further explanation of the local connection process was provided to the Board.

 

Members queried the wording in respect of recommendation (e) of the report and specifically whether the wording around parents overextended the criteria intended and whether there would be other family members that would be included. In response, it was confirmed that the wording implied a close family relative and this had been included on the recommendation of the Improving Places Select Commission.

 

Members sought assurances in respect of the availability and quality of temporary accommodation and referred to issues in respect of both over the recent Christmas holiday period. In response, it was confirmed that there had been a focus on temporary accommodation, with an increase in the number of crash pads available from 29 to 50. Work was ongoing to ensure the quality of those was to an acceptable standard. Members were reminded that prevention was the key to this particular area of work.

 

The Chair referred to the absence of an equality impact assessment which the Board considered should have accompanied the report. This issue had been raised on a number of occasions and he indicated that he would raise it again formally at the next Cabinet meeting where the report was due to be considered. In response, the Cabinet Member for Housing accepted the comments made by the Chair and indicated that an initial desktop exercise had been undertaken and a full equality impact assessment would be undertaken and forwarded to the Board in due course.

 

Resolved:-

 

That Cabinet be advised that the recommendations be supported, subject to recommendation (e) being amended for the local connection rule to include persons with a close family connection

Supporting documents: