Agenda item

Home Choice Allocations review

Minutes:

Elizabeth Denning gave a presentation on this item and made the following points:

 

·       Previous briefings to the HMB had taken place in October 2021 and May 2022

·       Consultation on proposed changes had taken place from July to October 2022. Final changes would be submitted to Cabinet on 7th March 2023.

·       Proposals were being put forward as a part of a major technology programme for changes to current systems which were not currently viable

·       21 questions had been put forward with 1653 complete responses over the 12-week consultation period

·       The responses were as follows: (1) broad support for a move to managed choice but a degree of ambivalence concerning restrictions proposed for Band (2) support for extending downsizing assistance and 64% approve increased priority for under-occupiers (3) 67% in favour of wider use of Local Letting Policies (4) 63% in favour of increased priority and provision for people exiting adult social care (5) 51% in favour of increasing priority of care leavers (6) support for placing all homelessness cases in a single band, and for introducing a ‘new deal’ for the homeless at home (7) strong support (75%) for changes to the rules regarding effective date (8) no general support for a change to the current income, savings, or debt thresholds

·       The following themes were raised: (1) the current scheme was perceived as unfair/ not working and there had been issues with the length of time taken to be made an offer of housing (2) there was a desire for changes to the current application process, systems, (more access, more information, quicker and easier system) (4) there was a need for more ‘hands on’ support and more feedback to applicants (5) there were issues with overcrowding/bedroom and rules were needed to address this (6) more priority needed to be given to various categories

·       The following issues were raised but are out of the scope of the housing review – (1) the need for more social housing, both smaller and larger properties (2) more was required to tackle issues in social housing – ASB, fraud, non-occupation, subletting etc (3) there was a need to improve the Private rented sector/rent caps/better conditions/provide more help for those on benefits

·       The following changes were proposed for Quarter 1 2023/24 – (1) a move to ‘Managed Choice’ in which up to 50% of allocations can be made by means of direct offer (2) Care Leavers priority to be changed to band 1 and improved access to general needs housing for those exiting supported care (Adults and Young People)

·       Further changes were proposed for Quarter 2 and 3 of 2023/24 as follows: (1) moving to ‘Managed Choice’ in which up to 50% of allocations can be made by means of direct offer (2) Care Leavers priority to be changed to band 1, and improved access to general needs housing for those exiting supported care (Adults and Young People) (3) Composite need – increasing the backdating of effective date to 12 months for those with three or more qualifying needs (Change not retrospective) (4) Extended use of Local Lettings Policies (Already in development in Knowle)

·       The following changes were proposed for when new technology is available (1) a revised approach to savings and income thresholds, making greater provision for a variety of household circumstances (2) targeting those in band 4 with additional information to better manage expectations and a review whether to restrict band 4 bidding to age-restricted/ SHOP and targeted properties only (3) provision of an application form and process improvements (4) introduction of more automated functionality (annual renewals, auto-matching and auto-bidding etc)

·       Other action to be taken included the following (1) a pilot to test the value of different approaches to incentivising downsizing (2) enhancements to communication, information and guidance, and information / data insight provision to better manage people’s expectations and increase individual agency through the process of seeking housing (3) improvements are also being considered for associated policies and processes including the Priority (4) a move On Scheme (prioritisation of clients in homelessness supported housing), and mutual Exchange to make sure they are used effectively

 

The Board noted that voids between people being advised they are moving into a property and making it fit for purpose lay with the estates team.

 

Board members also raised the following issues:

 

·       The issue of support for vulnerable residents needed to be considered, particularly those with medical problems

·       17,000 people were currently on the housing waiting list. In Slough Borough Council, anyone placed on the waiting list needed to be also on the electoral roll to prevent multiple applications on housing lists throughout the country

 

In response to concerns raised by Board members, officers noted the difficulties caused by multiple applications and instances of fraud. They indicated that work was taking place with Councillor Renhard to tackle this. Details of the scheme would be further promoted to get tenants assistance in tackling this.

 

ACTION: Liz Dewing to put an article in the next edition of Housing News concerning the requirements for people to be on the electoral roll and provide information on how to provide the appropriate identification