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Council to prioritise housing for locals and armed forces whilst punishing bad behaviour

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Council to prioritise housing for locals and armed forces whilst punishing bad behaviour

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

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Southwark Council has decided to prioritise its social housing to people with a local connection and members of the armed forces, but misbehaving tenants can expect penalties.

Over the past two years, the council has consulted its residents on who they think housing should be prioritised for. The local authority owns 54,000 properties of which around 2,000 become available each year. Its waiting list currently averages around 20,000 people in need of a home.

Subject to cabinet approval, Southwark’s new housing policy will see anti-social tenants given penalties but those who make an active contribution to their local community through voluntary work or similar activity bumped up the waiting list.

And under-occupiers who are genuinely in need of extra space that are affected by the bedroom tax will be awarded the highest priority on the register.

As well as giving armed forces personnel priority, those applying for housing will now require a five-year local residency qualification before joining the housing register.

The council will also deal with issues it says have long stalled the housing allocation process, such as refusal of properties.

Previously a person could bid for the home they wanted to move into through the council’s lettings system and be offered a place to view that, on the face of it, met their personal criteria. However, as the council has always operated completely free choice, the prospective tenant could refuse the property for any reason. In the past, these reasons have ranged from the ceiling of a property being ‘too high’, a garden deemed ‘too dark’, a property being too close to a bus stop and there being too many children on the estate.

Councillor Ian Wingfield, cabinet member for housing, said: “With such a chronically short supply of homes, the question of who ‘needs’ social housing, and who should be top of the list is a sensitive and complex subject.

"‘Need’ itself may not even be the only reason for someone to be first on the waiting list. We’ve listened to what our residents have told us and looked at the bigger picture – not just who most requires our support, but also how we create mixed, sustainable communities for the future and how we deal with limited resources and a demand that far outweighs supply. The new allocations criteria will help shape the communities we wish to see thrive and support people who are desperate for a home to get one more quickly.”

Other changes under the new scheme include:

• Applicants will not be allowed to join the housing register if they have deliberately worsened their own housing circumstances.
• Anti-fraud checks will be completed on all new applications and all offers for alternative accommodation.
• If a customer does not bid for alternative accommodation in a 12-month rolling programme they will be removed from the register.
• If a customer refuses three reasonable offers of alternative accommodation, they will be demoted to Band 4, the lowest priority band.
• Additional priority will be given to working households.
• Tenants who have not complied with their tenancy agreement will be placed into Band 4.
• Tenants who fail the pre-tenancy transfer inspection and where the property does not meet the lettable standard will not be placed onto the housing register.
• Tenants who have a clear rent account, have not caused anti-social behaviour or nuisance and annoyance will be placed into Band 2
• Applicants discharged from hospital will be placed into Band 1 if the applicant's existing property does not meet the applicant's new housing needs.
• Applicants that undertake fostering and adoption will be placed into Band 2.

Cllr Wingfield added: “We can no longer afford to tolerate people wasting our, and others on the waiting list’s time. If a person is genuinely in need of a home, we expect them to accept a reasonable offer of one, and we want to make sure that those in real need do not have to wait forever. We cannot allow fraudsters, those who behave unacceptably or abuse their tenancy to remain in our social housing. From this point forward we are making it clear that this precious resource will not be open to misuse.”

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