New plans to end council tenants subletting
Housing minister John Healey has today announced plans to stop council house tenants illegally subletting their homes.
The announcement also hopes to reassure residents that council houses are being allocated fairly.
Draft guidance published today says that the first priority for housing must be given to those in greatest need and strengthens the freedoms councils have to prioritise the needs in their area.
- Attracting people with particular skills into an area
- Giving priority to those who have been on housing waiting lists for a long time
- Supporting people in work - particularly those on low incomes
The draft guidance also states the need for councils to tackle the 'myths and misunderstandings' surrounding allocations, by doing more to inform their communities about who is getting housing.
A new Ipsos-Mori poll shows that only 23% of people think that local authority housing is allocated fairly - with 45% saying they simply did not know enough about how housing is allocated in their area.
The survey also found that 81% agreed that social housing tenants who abuse the conditions of their tenancy should not be allowed to stay in their homes.
Mr Healey believes a 'coordinated crackdown' this autumn on people who profit from subletting their council house or housing association home could free up between 5,000 and 10,000 homes for those who need them over this and next year.
The multi-million pound anti-fraud drive includes a data sweep of housing and benefit records, and new practical advice for councils and housing associations on the best way to catch tenancy cheats - including on setting up local hotlines, and special crack squads to investigate reports of fraud.
Housing experts have suggested that the number of social homes unlawfully sub-let by tenants could range from one in 100 to as many as one in 20 in some inner-city hotspots.
Some councils have found that recovering a property that has been unlawfully sublet can cost as little as £4,000, whilst the total cost of building a new social home can be well over £100,000.
Councils that sign up to this commitment and agree to work with local housing associations will benefit from a share of £4m to help them start their own anti-fraud initiatives.
Mr Healey said: 'People must have more confidence that decisions about who gets housing are taken fairly. This means better information for residents, so that local authorities' allocation policies are clear, well understood and meet the needs of the whole community. It also means councils making the most of the greater leeway I'm giving them in the new guidance to allocate homes according to local needs.
'But this is only one side of the equation. Anyone getting council or housing association homes should stick to the same rules as everyone else. So today, I am also announcing a coordinated crackdown on the tenancy cheats who profit from unlawfully sub-letting their home. This could free up thousands of properties for people who really need them.
'These two measures combined present a valuable opportunity to tackle head-on the myths and false perceptions around social housing. By working together and with local residents, councils and housing associations can ensure fairness in allocations.'
The guidance, Fair and Flexible: draft statutory guidance on social housing allocations for Local Authorities in England, will be published later today.
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