Harlow Council is proposing a radical overhaul of how it allocates housing as part of its priority to fix council housing and has launched a six-week public consultation to listen to residents’ views.
The consultation will run from Monday 13 November until Friday 22 December.
The council says it is proposing changes to its policy that will strengthen its commitment to make sure Harlow homes go to Harlow families.
The council’s Housing Allocations Policy determines how it lets social housing in the area, both its own council homes and housing association properties. It sets out who is eligible to apply for social housing and who gets priority.
There are currently 5,558 applicants on the housing needs register with around 3,000 applicants actively bidding for homes.
Proposals for change include:
- Increasing the length of time that the applicant must have a local connection - currently this is 5 years, but this could potentially be doubled.
- Removing local connection through family or working in the town except in very exceptional circumstances.
- Considering extra priority for those who were born in Harlow and still live here – backdating applications by 12 months.
- The removal of priority Band 4 of the register to ensure the council does not give ‘false hope’; most applicants in this band are extremely unlikely to ever be offered council housing and therefore, honest conversations would take place up front rather than giving ‘false hope’. There are over 2,600 applicants currently in band 4.
- Increasing the earnings threshold for eligibility to join the register – this is currently £50,000 per year but needs to increase to reflect the cost of living challenges.
- Tougher penalties for those who refuse reasonable offers of a council home.
- More effective methods of matching adapted homes to those who need them.
- A review into nomination rights to partner organisations to ensure council homes truly go to those in need.
- Ensuring that those placed in temporary accommodation by other Councils do not have access to local housing over and above Harlow residents.
The council is also proposing changes that will make the policy easier to administer and therefore simpler for applicants to understand and apply. This will help to significantly speed the application process up.
This in the most radical proposed overhaul of how the council allocates council homes in decades. Commenting on the proposals, Councillor David Carter, deputy leader and cabinet portfolio holder for housing, said:
“As we work hard on our priority to fix council housing we want to make sure local housing goes to local people, and that our homes are let to those most in need. There is a strong feeling in the town that more priority should be given to people who were born in Harlow and still live here and that’s one of the reasons why we are proposing a radical overhauling of our policy and system.
“With housing demand outstripping housing supply, we are facing the issues head on to focus on those who need a home rather than those who want a home. We believe that there is no value in registering applicants when there are no prospects of rehousing. We would rather have an honest conversation with people at the point they apply and signpost them to better, more realistic housing options.
“However, these are proposals and we want to hear what residents think before we make changes, including getting ideas and views on what they think we need to also address or include.”
Residents can take part in the consultation on our consultations page.
The results of the consultation will be considered in February 2024, with a view to implementing a new allocations policy from 1 April 2024.