Paul Sylvester, the Head of Housing Options spoke to his presentation on the reason for reviewing housing allocations. (the presentation is online with the agenda pack) The review process had commenced prior to the pandemic but had to be put on hold whilst the team addressed the urgent need of those person who were homelessness when lockdown was implemented.
a. The current system for allocations known as Home Choice is the Bristol Common Register for Council or Housing Association properties. Bristol currently worked in partnership with 18 provides in the housing section (housing association).
b. The review has specific outcomes:
1. To deliver a future vision for the service that:
c. Areas under review:
1. Common register and allocation policy
2. Choice based approach vs. a managed list
3. Open register/ qualification criteria
4. Banding system
5. Priority for specific groups
6. Flexibility: local lettings, landlord agreed transfers, letting policies or priority for positive behaviours (asset-based approach)
d. It was decided that the work was to be carried out in a way that enlisted community participation and involvement to identify and understand community needs and priorities.
e. Details of key activities with a timeline recommencing, at this time, with the main project board and steering groups reconvened to allow for the project to be on tract to deliver outcomes during April 2022.
f. A communication review is an essential part of the project: The way in which the Home Choice service communicates with those applying for housing and the explanation of decisions made need to be revitalised and refreshed to improve the way the service is perceived. This is an immediate action with concepts already formed to be delivered by Christmas 2021, to effect change.
g. The project did not have a designated funding pot to support delivery. The project is viewed as essential to the ‘Bristol Big Housing Conversation’ therefore every effort is being made to overcome the lack of targeted resource by whatever means possible.
The following was noted from the discussion;
h. That the working group had considered the realistic situation faced by those on the housing register; that in reality only limited number of properties become available for re-letting, on average 1550 per year; the many thousands on the waiting list are not aware of this reality; the group had considered how to convey this reality to those in desperate need; that the way in which it is conveyed was important to demonstrate the right level of empathy on the part of the service about the stark reality of the lack of housing.
i. Housing Associations have introduced additional credit referencing checks that place many applicants at a disadvantage; this will be considered in the scope of the review; how to work in partnership with housing associations to manage this aspect; approaches have made on this issue and assurances were given that there is an element of flexibility around debt but there was acknowledgement that in reality customer facing staff members providing the service would be more rigid with the application of housing associations policy.
j. Agreed to consider within the review the existing econometric study that captured the issues experienced by diverse groups.
The Board noted the report.