SOME of the biggest changes to social housing are being proposed by the council in a bid to address increasing homelessness and a lack of available homes.
The plan, which is two years in the making, will see a reshuffle of Harrow Council’s housing allocation scheme, modifying how those on waiting lists are prioritised and how tenancy periods are assessed.
Under the changes, new tenants will no longer have security of tenure for life and after a 12-month probationary period, the council will assess a candidates’ suitability for a five-year tenancy. By the end of that tenancy, the council will reconsider whether the tenant remains an appropriate candidate for social housing.
Divisional director of housing at Harrow Council, Lynne Pennington said: “Say they win the lottery or get a really well paid job, we would review their tenancy, so if their circumstances change and they would be able to readily afford alternative accommodation we might go through a process of getting the property back because the supply is so scarce.”
Those who could be considered to find alternative housing are one-bedroom households who earn £30,000, two-bedroom earning £38,000, £48,000 in a three-bedroom property and £60,000 in a four-bedroom property.
Alison Pegg, housing partnerships and strategy manager at the council, added: “If somebody does earn more, maybe they should move on to something else more appropriate and let that property go to somebody who does need it.”
The borough has a low supply of social housing stock, with just 10 per cent of homes being social housing, compared to the London average of 24 per cent and national average of 17 per cent.
There has also been a surge in homelessness, with 4,000 people on the waiting list for the 5,000 social homes in the borough.
The re-prioritising of waiting lists is in reaction to welfare and council tax support changes introduced by the Tory-led coalition government, the council says.
The aim is for ‘priority’ applicants to experience shorter waiting times, such as those who are in overcrowded accommodation, with severe medical or welfare needs, and homeless applicants in low paid work.
Employed applicants with primary school age children who are experiencing financial hardship regardless of overcrowding or medical need will also have improved priority alongside serving and ex-members of the armed forces.
Harrow Council’s portfolio holder for housing councillor Bob Currie said: “The lives of our most vulnerable residents will inevitably be affected by the raft of welfare reforms being introduced this year. It is vital we make the best use of the limited supply we have, while also trying to increase that supply and enhance the quality of housing in the private sector.”
The proposed changes are due to be considered at a council cabinet meeting today (Thursday).