Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Applicants barred by local connection rules

More than half of councils to respond to an Inside Housing survey have imposed new local connection rules to slash their waiting lists.

An exclusive Inside Housing survey reveals 159 English councils have struck 237,793 people off their waiting lists and barred a further 42,994 new applicants since the Localism Act came into effect in June 2012. Ninety councils, or 57% of respondents, have introduced a requirement that applicants have a connection to the local area.

Melanie Rees, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the requirements “generally aren’t good practice” as they can be “discriminatory depending on how long they’re applied”. Twenty-six councils require a person to have lived in the area for three years or more.

The research suggests a surge in the number of people removed or barred from waiting lists. In a similar survey of 126 councils two years ago, 113,000 people had been removed or barred.

There have been 775 occasions since 2012 where a decision to remove an applicant from the waiting list or refuse access has been reversed after it was contested.

Current statutory guidance says councils should require a person to live in the borough for at least two years before they are considered for social housing.

However, the government plans to increase this to four years as part of a deal struck with the European Union prior to the referendum in June.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said the Housing and Planning Bill will cut investment in council housing and pressure local authorities to “further reconsider” their policies.

Glen Hearnden, portfolio holder for housing at Harrow Council, which has introduced stricter criteria, said the demand for housing “far exceeds supply”.

Other restrictions include means-testing income and barring people with rent arrears. Some people will have voluntarily come off the register, or moved out of the area. However, 39 councils, or 25%, have made no changes to their allocations policy since the Localism Act passed into law.

A Local Government Ombudsman report published in January said there had been a 13% increase in complaints about housing allocations.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson said Inside Housing’s research was “unnecessary scaremongering”.

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