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Council to cut thousands from housing register

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government

Council to cut thousands from housing register Council to cut thousands from housing register

Cherwell District Council (CDC) is to change its rules for the allocation of social housing, which will see thousands removed from its waiting list.

Until now, anybody could apply for housing, regardless of their needs, but the Government's Localism Act 2011 has given CDC more freedom to decide who should be given priority for housing in their district.

Under CDC's new rules, anyone who does not qualify and is not considered to have "reasonable preference" will no longer be allowed on the register.

Those considered most unlikely to qualify include homeowners or those with assets or annual household incomes of £60,000; those with criminal convictions relating to their home or a history of anti-social behaviour; and people with significant rent arrears.

Those without a local connection to Cherwell are also unlikely to qualify, with the exception, in certain circumstances, of members of the armed forces.

CDC currently divides applicants into five bands. Presently there are 2,800 households in bands four and five (the lowest bands), most of whom it says have little to no chance of qualifying. The two bands make up the bulk of the total waiting list, which is currently around 4,000.

The new system will operate in three stages, with households being assessed on whether they are eligible for social housing, qualify under the new scheme and are considered to be in a "reasonable preference" category. Applicants who are homeless, have unacceptable living conditions or need to move on medical grounds are included in the groups most likely to fit into this bracket.

New rules are also being introduced concerning the acceptance of "suitable offers". Applicants who refuse three "suitable offers" in a six-month period will be excluded from the register for six months.

The council is prioritising up to one third of vacancies annually to be for those who are employed or who are undertaking education or training to improve their chances of getting a job.

The new policy, which the council hope will drastically reduce the amount of time spent on processing unrealistic applications, will not be implemented until at least April 2013.

Councillor Debbie Pickford, Cherwell's lead member for housing, said: "In the past, people who have had no need for social housing have made applications.

"In many cases, this has been speculative, but many of those judged to have little or no need stood little chance of ever being housed.

"This new legislation allows us to take a much more rigorous approach, meaning we can focus staff time dealing only with those in real need."

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