Stricter council housing criteria could be adopted by Uttlesford District Council
- Credit: Archant
Those deemed to have insufficient connections to Uttlesford will no longer be housed by the district council, if proposals for a new housing allocation are enforced.
Under the scheme, which would amend the housing allocation policy adopted last year, applicants would need to have lived in the area for at least three years to be eligible for the social housing register – or pass other criteria, said housing needs and landlord services manager Judith Snares at the housing conference on Monday, hosted by Uttlesford District Council (UDC).
Those working at least 24 hours a week in the district, or family supporting elderly parents would be eligible – though they should come to the area because they need to help with their parents’ care, rather than “moving to Uttlesford because it is a nice place to live”, Ms Snares stressed.
“This is a big change for us, and it will make a big difference in terms of who can come on our register,” said Ms Snares, referring to the departure current ‘open list’ policy, which she said ran the risk of drawing people from other districts.
There are currently 1,487 people on the district’s housing register – a 53 per cent rise in two years, which would likely increase with the new measures.
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The move follows that of other Essex districts, such as Epping and Harlow, where applicants need to have lived for three and five years respectively to get on the register.
Tougher restrictions include tighter control on debt repayment on social housing, and applicants must also prove themselves unable to rent or buy on the market. Previously those who were able to rent were also eligible for social housing.
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“The rents in Saffron Walden don’t meet the housing benefit allowance,” said Ms Snares. “There’s a large shortfall, it is unaffordable here for a lot of the clients that we see. For many social housing is the only option,” she added.
Ms Snares also discussed provision for the homeless.
“Times are hard and they’re not getting any better yet for the people we see. For the first half of this year we’ve seen as many people as for the whole of last year for in-depth housing advice,” said Ms Snares.
UDC currently has 14 units to house the homeless, and four additional temporary units which are not fully furnished. Priority will be given to those with a local connection to the area, Ms Snares said, but they would still have a “statutory duty” to help the homeless in the district who were not from Uttlesford.
Manager of Uttlesford Citizens Advice Bureau, Kate Robson, said: “We understand the motivations of the council to update their allocations policy in line with recent government changes and local concerns about affordable housing for local people.
“However, we are always keen to see how any changes to policies work in practice, because sometimes changes do result in unforeseen and unfair outcomes,” she added.
The proposals will be considered by the next housing board, and then voted on by the cabinet in December.
To listen to the housing conference, go to audiominutes.com/udc.