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Major shake-up of council's housing allocation policy

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Major shake-up of council's housing allocation policy

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

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A council has changed its policy concerning who gets priority for housing.

Changes in government legislation along with a housing shortage led Harlow Council to review its housing register and allocation policy.

The new policy, which comes into force this September, features the following changes:

  • Applicants must have continually lived in Harlow for five years.
  • Members of the armed forces will receive greater priority than previously.
  • Increased priority will be given to council tenants wishing to move to a smaller property.
  • Adopters and foster carers will be given higher priority.
  • The Housing Register will be relaunched as the “Housing Needs Register” to reflect the fact that council housing is allocated based on need not the length of time applicants have been waiting.

Additionally, certain people will no longer be eligible to join the register. These include single or joint applicants with more than £50,000 in savings, equity or income; anyone who owes a housing debt of more than £1,000 either for social or private housing; and applicants or households involved in committing ongoing antisocial behaviour or people with recent domestic abuse or hate crime convictions.

There are currently 5,000 people on the council's register who are either looking for their first home or are current tenants looking to change their present accommodation.

Every year the list swells by 1,000 applicants, while only about 570 new council homes become available.

The majority of these new homes are allocated to people in urgent need, often because of serious health and welfare concerns, for example people with disabilities, serious illnesses or those that are homeless.

Councillor Rod Truan, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “With the demand for social housing not easing we have to look at how we allocate housing and who should get priority on the register. Over 490 people took part in our consultation last year and these changes respond to what residents have told us about who should get priority for housing.

“It’s a difficult situation but these changes give priority to local people who are in genuine need of a council home. We also need to be honest with people with less priority about their chances of ever getting a home.

“We would love to give a home to everyone who wants one but that just isn’t possible at the moment. Clearly some local people are in a position to buy their own home or rent privately and we need put criteria in place so these people cannot join the register.

"Building more housing in Harlow is a priority for the council and we are going to be looking at how we can provide more housing choices in future but this is not something which will happen overnight.”

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