William Eichler 18 September 2019

Processes for allocating social housing excluding ‘vulnerable’, think tank warns

Processes for allocating social housing excluding ‘vulnerable’, think tank warns  image

The rules and processes designed to decide who gets access to social housing could be failing people in greatest need, housing experts warn.

A new study from the Chartered Institute of Housing found that due to a shortage of social housing, councils and housing associations are forced to ration their limited housing stock.

However, the research from CIH policy and practice officer Faye Greaves suggests that the way social housing is allocated can end up excluding some of the most vulnerable people.

‘For decades, we have failed to build enough homes, and our welfare safety net is no longer fit for purpose. More and more people are turning to local authorities and housing associations for help to access social housing,’ said Ms Greaves.

‘But that leaves housing providers having to find a balance between people in acute need, local priorities and their need to develop sustainable tenancies. What we found is that relying solely on processes can end up having the opposite effect to that intended.’

Ms Greaves said local authorities should ensure applicants’ unique circumstances and housing histories are considered when making decisions about whether someone can access a list and what priority they are given.

She also said that councils and housing associations should work in partnership to strengthen the role of nominations agreements in how they balance competing objectives.

The Government should also work with councils and housing associations to develop toolkits that support the delivery of support-focussed pre-tenancy processes and the development, monitoring and review of nominations agreements.

‘It may seem obvious to put people at the heart of deciding about something so essential as their home, but as we’ve found, the pressures that housing providers face can lead to them relying on processes alone,’ said CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat.

‘Faye’s report is a reminder of the risks of that and gives good examples of how to avoid them.’

Steve Jennings, the chair of South Liverpool Homes, the sponsors of the report, said: ‘We’re very pleased to have supported this work by CIH.

‘The housing crisis has produced an increasingly complex challenge for those charged with allocating local authority and housing association homes. But as a sector we must remember that we are dealing with people who need a home, so we must put them at the heart of any process to allocate the ones we own and manage.

Rethinking Allocations provides us all with food for thought and contains clear recommendations for local authorities, providers and government. A wide-ranging review deserves wide-ranging action, so let’s make it happen.’

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