Changes to Cornwall Council’s Housing Allocations Scheme
Cornwall Council like all primary Local Authorities have a statutory duty to produce a housing allocation scheme. In Cornwall this is called Homechoice. The allocation scheme sets out the way in which social housing is allocated to people in Cornwall. The demand for housing in Cornwall is high with a greater demand than supply. This is why it is important for Cornwall Council to have a robust policy which is in accordance with national policy.
Recent changes to Government legislation means Cornwall Council has now more scope to decide who can qualify to join the Housing Register and other changes. This will hopefully help Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing Ltd to better manage the housing waiting list by making sure that the homes that are available go to those families and individuals that are in the greatest need. Currently, there are 28,000 people on the Homechoice register.
As part of the new powers, Cornwall Council Councillors have agreed to consult on possible changes to the current scheme. Cornwall Council are proposing changes to:
- Who can join the Housing Register;
- How applicants are banded;
- How housing will be advertised and let; and
- Applicant responsibilities.
But before any changes are implemented, the Council wants to hear your views. Therefore there is a consultation period which will run until Friday 21st June.
There are proposed changes to those who do not have a Cornwall Connection cannot join the homechoice scheme until they have the Cornwall Connection. The Cornwall Connection is either: residence; a family connection; or, working in the county. Cornwall Council currently asks that households should have lived in the county for 1 year before they qualify for a Cornwall Connection through ‘residence.’ There is also a question of the length of time to qualify for residency – this is either three or five years. My view it is should be five years.
Currently anyone evicted because of unacceptable behaviour is able to join the housing register. A proposed change to the scheme is not to allow those persons to re-join the register for a period of two years. Examples of unacceptable behaviour are: breaching the conditions of the tenancy agreement and /or causing nuisance to neighbours. There is also a proposal to not allow someone to rejoin the scheme is they have been evicted for rent arrears. The latter reason – rent arrears – has me slightly worried, as I hope if someone has been evicted for rent arrears all possible avenues have been explored before eviction. I am happy with the baring for those who are evicted for unacceptable behaviour.
For those with assets (home ownership and / or savings) over £70,000 are able to join the scheme, but are placed automatically into Band E. The proposed changes will restrict someone joining the scheme if they have assets over £50,000. I think this new figure is still high and should be further reduced.
A further question is on affordability. Currently, anyone no matter how much you earn can join the Homechoice register. Under the new proposals, anyone who can ‘afford’ to be able to choose their own accommodation should not be allowed to register. A difficult one, you maybe able to afford market rents, but should that exclude you from the register? My view is no. However, a more sensible solution could include a salary cap.
There is a proposal to change the banding from A – the highest to, E – the lowest to Red, Amber and Green. I worry with a more simplified banding, any one in Green stands little chance of being allocated a house, much like those currently in Band E. Though there is plans to introduce an additional priority within the Green Band which recognises and rewards preference to an applicant who is engaged in one of the following: fulltime work/ Vocational training – 16 or more hours per week and /or Voluntary work in the Community.
There is an online survey which you can complete HERE. Which I urge people to take the 5/10 minutes to complete. The survey is open to all. There is a briefing paper on the subject HERE. The draft allocation policy is HERE , and frequently asked question HERE . Just in case you want further details.