Posted by: Tom Lloyd02/07/2012
After a bit of a false start the government’s guidance on the allocation of social housing made it out of the starting blocks on Friday, but the result of the race is far from certain.
We had been hoping for the document on Wednesday, and a wave of national newspaper articles suggested the more privileged members of the media had received a similar tip off, but nothing appeared until Friday, when housing minister Grant Shapps once again popped up in the papers and on Conservative Home to tell us what he’d been up to.
What the hold up might have been is unclear from the document, as it is broadly in line with the consultation paper published in January, and retains the basic principles of allocation policy from previous versions of the guidance.
First and foremost, authorities still have to base their allocations policy on the ‘reasonable preference’ categories, which are things like being homeless, or living in unsanitary or overcrowded conditions.
In the unlikely event that there are any homes left after these problems have been dealt with, then councils move on to the ‘additional preference’ categories. Here there is some potential for change from the old allocations policies, with authorities urged to consider factors such as a link with the community, and whether a family is in work.
However these rules aren’t binding, and a fairly high proportion of the authorities that responded to the consultation said they weren’t thinking about changing their policies to take the government’s recommendations into account.
What will be binding - once the necessary legislation is in place - is a new requirement that former members of the armed forces, injured servicemen and women, and bereaved spouses or civil partners should be given additional preference if they fall within the reasonable preference categories.
Even this could have limited impact, however, as it seems likely to only affect a fairly small number of people.
The allocations guidance is intended to give councils more freedom to set their own policies, but in the absence of a major house building programme, it seems likely most local authorities will continue to give precedence to the kind of families they house under the existing system.
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