Lettings Policy

Have your say about the proposed changes to the Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk Home-link partnership Letting Policy

The Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk Home-link partnership has reviewed and re-drafted its Lettings Policy. The last major policy review and consultation took place in 2012. Some minor policy amendments were approved in 2018 to incorporate changes in legislation relating to the Homeless Reduction Act and also to ensure compliance with GDPR regulations. The 2020 review proposes some further amendments and points of clarification which are set out in this document.

Purpose of the Lettings Policy 

The overall aims of the policy remain unchanged and seek:

  • To meet the legal requirements for the allocation of social housing as set out in the Housing Act 1996 (as amended);
  • To assist applicants in the highest assessed need;
  • To let properties in a fair and transparent way and provide a consistent lettings process;
  • To make best use of housing stock;
  • To ensure that applicants are not unlawfully discriminated against, whether directly or indirectly;
  • To support vulnerable applicants;
  • To provide increased choice and information to applicants;
  • To provide information and feedback on homes that are let through the Home-Link scheme;
  • To improve mobility across the Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk; and
  • To promote social inclusion and help achieve sustainable communities.

As at 31st March 2020 there were 13,271 households registered and waiting for social housing in the Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk Sub-Region.

The draft policy explains who can apply for social housing, the criteria used to prioritise and assess applications and how these properties are nominated.

The policy must comply with the requirements outlined in Part 6 of the 1996 Housing Act. This includes offering 'reasonable preference' to certain categories of people when allocating properties and these legal requirements therefore cannot be changed.

Purpose of this consultation

By reviewing the Lettings Policy, and through this consultation, the partnership wants to make sure it:

  • continues to meet the changing needs of our customers;
  • makes the best possible use of existing housing stock; and
  • continues to meet the requirements of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

Anyone who is a tenant, resident or landlord living in the Cambridgeshire or West Suffolk area, or people who live outside of the area and want to move into social housing, could be affected by these proposals.

What is changing?

The majority of the changes to the policy relate to wording changes to make it clearer what the policy actually means and to ensure it is applied consistently across partners. In addition, the policy incorporates changes to the definition of local connection and sets out greater clarity as to what is meant in relation to employment requirements.

However, some changes to the banding criteria were agreed in 2018 in response to the Homeless Reduction Act. Limited consultation took place on the understanding that the amendments would be reviewed and more widely consulted on as part of the 2020 full policy review. Priority bands have been considered in detail and no substantial changes have been made to the 2018 amendments as partners believe them to work as effectively as possible.

The main changes under consideration are as follows:

Armed Forces - Ex Partners/Spouses 

We propose to give ex-partners/spouses of armed forces personnel the same priority we give their former partners where they must move out of a Ministry of Defence property due to a relationship breakdown. This change is to ensure the partnership is compliant with the requirements of the Military Covenant. Section 2.4 of the Lettings Policy refers.

Multiple Applications

We have clarified the wording around multiple applications to explain that an applicant can have only one active application on the housing register at any time where they are the applicant or joint applicant. However, they may be considered on other applications where they are eligible to be considered as part of another applicant's household, for example where living with a parent and included as part of their application). Section 2.5.1 of the Lettings Policy refers.

Local connection and work requirements

The work requirement has changed to clarify the criteria about the type and nature of qualifying work, including where the work is located. These changes are detailed in Section 3.4.2.

Banding

Changes to the banding elements of the policy were introduced in 2018 in relation to the Homeless Reduction Act. The 2018 changes reflected the fact that new Homeless Prevention and Homeless Relief duties were introduced and needed to be incorporated into the Lettings Policy.

However, the amendments did not change the fundamental principles of the policy. In particular, the partnership continue to agree that it is a fairer and better use of scarce housing resource to provide a higher priority to those who are owed a main homeless duty rather than those whose housing options were still being explored and assessed at the Prevention and Relief stages.

The 2020 review does not seek to change the existing principles but seeks to further clarify some of the wording introduced in 2018.

In addition, we have further clarified the wording to make it clear that, where a person is owed a homeless prevention or homeless relief duty and is placed in temporary accommodation, they will be awarded a Band B but no additional priority for accommodation related factors.

Further detail on the banding criteria is set out in Section 4, particularly in parts 4.7 and 4.8.

The revised policy also offers greater clarity in circumstances where an applicant has sufficient financial capital or other means to find a housing solution outside of the register. The revised wording makes it clearer that, in this situation, an assessment of 'sufficient financial means' will override the needs assessment band but is subject to review if an applicant's circumstances change.

How to comment

Please comment using our online survey.

Following the end of the consultation, comments received will be analysed and taken into account before the new policy is finalised in 2021.

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