Changes could be made to 'unfair' housing system

Published date: 10 January 2014 |
Published by: Garth ApThomas 
Read more articles by Garth ApThomas  Email reporter


CHANGES could be made to the way Wrexham Council allocates housing.

A report before the local authority’s homes, environment and communities scrutiny committee by Cllr Mark Pritchard, lead member for housing and planning, said the council’s current allocations policy is points-based and does not take into account how long someone has been on the waiting list. Members analysed the issue during the meeting.

The report stated: “Points are awarded for a variety of needs and applicants are awarded points for cumulative needs.

“Historically, Wrexham Council has used this system and while it is familiar, there are concerns that it lacks clarity for both applicants and staff. Currently, housing is allocated to the applicant with the greatest number of points. While addressing housing need, it takes no account of the amount of time that an applicant has been waiting for housing.

“Some applicants in housing need are always bypassed, regardless of how long they have been waiting to be re-housed, if an applicant with more points registers for housing.

“As a result, some see the current system as being unfair. In addition, the policy does not limit  the number of offers of accommodation an applicant can refuse, regardless of their suitability.

“Similarly, no account is taken of an applicant’s ability to meet their own housing need from any capital or assets they may have.

“Amending the current allocations policy would, therefore, be an opportunity to address these issues, while ensuring that we have a policy that complies with newly issued Welsh Government guidance.

“It is proposed to replace the current policy with a system that would be seen as clearer and fairer.”

Under the proposed amendments, applicants would be placed into a priority band, depending on housing need.

Cllr Pritchard’s report added: “In the first instance, a property would be allocated to the applicant with a community connection, in the highest band, who has been waiting the longest time.

“A banding system has the potential to be easier for applicants to understand, to be more straightforward for staff to operate and to be seen as being fairer.

“There would be scope to introduce a degree of recognition of the amount of time that an applicant waits for council housing while still helping those who are in housing need.”

Cllr Pritchard’s report said it was important the council’s policy took account of the impact of the Government’s Welfare Reform Act, with tenants having their housing benefit reduced by a proportion if deemed to be under occupying their home.

About 1,600 tenants have been identified as being at risk of financial hardship due to this change.

“The proposed amendments to the allocations policy take account of these changes and offer an easier and quicker way to assist tenants who need to downsize, rather than having to rely solely upon the management move process, contained in the current policy.”

The meeting voted in favour of a recommendation for the draft revised allocations policy to form the basis of a consultation exercise.

It will be undertaken before being submitted to the council’s executive board.

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