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Attachment Report of the Director of Housing Hull City Council

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Attachment Report of the Director of Housing Hull City Council Powered By Docstoc
					Report to the CST - 5 July 2006                              Wards All
              CST/Cabinet – 10 July 2006
              Cabinet - 24 July 2006




                          Hull HomeSearch Six Month Review

Report of the Director of Housing

1.    Purpose of the Report and Summary

      1.1    On 30th November 2004 Cabinet agreed that a Choice Based Lettings Policy
             be developed and implemented in accordance with the Housing Act 1996 (as
             amended by the Homelessness Act 2002).

      1.2    The recommendation that the Council adopt a combined Points/Banding
             scheme was also agreed by Members. Delegated authority to agree the
             detail of the new lettings policy was passed to the Portfolio Holder and the
             Head of Housing Strategy.

      1.3    Members requested that an initial review of the policy be undertaken and
             reported back to Cabinet six months after implementation.

      1.4    This report is to inform Members of the progress and impact of the new
             Lettings Policy introduced on 27th October 2005, the results of the initial
             review of the policy, recommend amendments to the policy detail and
             provide details of phase 2 of the project.

2.    Recommendations

      2.1    Include a new category of ‘Additional Preference’ in band one to ensure that
             urgent band two cases are rehoused quickly.

      2.2    The points awarded to households in hostels, hotels, bed and breakfast to be
             increased to 125 points.

      2.3    Implement the weekly advertising of properties subject to identifiable
             savings.

      2.4    The number of bids for people in bands one and two to be increased from
             three to six for each bidding round and reviewed after six months.
      2.5    Agree, in principle, to introduce a time limit of three months for the rehousing
             of applicants with a homeless priority.

      2.6    The Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel in conjunction with Housing
             Officers to review the eligible households rules for Council properties to
             ensure consistency across the city and enable more transparency of the
             lettings process.

      2.7    Agree, in principle, to include sheltered and adapted Council housing in the
             HomeSearch scheme.

      2.8    The Director of Housing to be given authority to review quotas for higher
             demand properties and areas every six months.

      2.9    Agree, in principle, to amend the eligibility rules to allow older people to be
             eligible for 2 bedroomed houses and introduce financial incentives to
             encourage older people to transfer from large Council houses into smaller
             accommodation.

      2.10   In view of the need to continually review, assess and amend the lettings
             policy, delegated authority to agree any changes to the policy be passed to
             the Director of Housing and the Portfolio Holder for Housing. Any changes
             should be subject to comments from Scrutiny prior to any decision being
             taken.

      2.11   Further work to be undertaken to explore joint working with Housing
             Associations and the private sector.

This is a non-key decision.

3.    Introduction

      3.1    The review of Hull HomeSearch involved contact with customers, users, front
             line staff and managers.

      3.2    Postal questionnaires were sent to users, and meetings were held with front
             line staff and managers.

      3.3    A report by Corinne Hargreaves (Principal Cabinet Support Officer) on
             choice based lettings was also included in the review.

      3.4    The issues identified through the consultation exercise were initially
             considered by front line staff focus groups.

      3.5    The recommendations and outcomes of those discussions were discussed
             with the Hull HomeSearch Steering Group, Empty Homes and Lettings
             Service Improvement Group and the Housing Commission Panel.

4.    Review and Proposals

      4.1    Customer Satisfaction
      4.1.1 A postal survey on the new policy was carried out in January and
            February 2006.

               250 questionnaires were sent out to current housing applicants,
               100 questionnaires to applicants successfully rehoused through
                HomeSearch,
               28 surveys to voluntary agencies and other organisations
               All Members of the City Council

      4.1.2 Not surprisingly, of those successfully rehoused, 63% of respondents
            found the new process easy to understand and simple to use.
            Whereas, of those applicants still waiting rehousing, only 43% of
            respondents found it easy to understand and use.

      4.1.3 39% of the voluntary organisations surveyed responded, and 36% felt
            that the new policy adequately assists their client group. Although few
            gave reasons for this, some suggestions for improvement included:

               Devolve some authority to agencies to assess clients
               Provide more help for learning disabled and language problems
               Give more priority to people suffering domestic violence

      4.1.4 Finally, 14% of Members returned their survey forms. The results are
            therefore not representative of the group.

4.2   Effects on Relet Performance

      4.2.1 There were concerns that the introduction of Choice Based Lettings
            would have an effect on the time taken to relet properties. In order to
            reduce the impact, it was agreed that all properties should be
            advertised at the time of receiving notice and not when the outgoing
            tenant returned the keys.

      4.2.2 There are a number of other factors which have affected relet
            performance since the introduction of HomeSearch.

            4.2.2.1    A dedicated empty property team has been established
                       along with a new lettable standard for all Council housing.

            4.2.2.2    The work required to meet the Decent Homes standard has
                       been undertaken on some properties before being released
                       for letting.

      4.2.3 For the period 1st April 2005 to 31st October 2005 (Pre HomeSearch)
            the average relet time taken was 72 days. For the period 1st
            November 2005 to 30th April 2006 (Post HomeSearch) the average
            time taken to relet properties was 63 days.

      4.2.4 While relet performance has improved since the introduction of
            HomeSearch, this is due to a number of factors, and the full impact of
            HomeSearch may not be seen for some months.
4.3   Effects on Demand

      4.3.1 The main area of concern with regard to demand lies mainly within the
            Thorpes area of Orchard Park. It has been necessary to resort to the
            First Come, First Served (FCFS) process in order to attract bids for a
            number of vacancies in this area. A total of 25 houses and flats have
            been advertised in three editions of the property sheet. These
            properties had been previously advertised, but no successful bids had
            been made.

      4.3.2 The only other properties advertised as FCFS were 1 bedroomed
            bungalows on the Greatfield and Bilton Grange estates.

      4.3.3 In general, there is a healthy demand for most council properties from
            people in all of the bands.

4.4   Effects on Homelessness

      4.4.1 There are a number of procedural issues around matching homeless
            applicants to properties which are causing some delays, especially
            where there are delays in completing repairs.

      4.4.2 The policy to advertise properties has also affected the speed in which
            homeless applicants are successfully matched to properties. Before
            HomeSearch, applicants would be matched to properties by housing
            staff and offers made accordingly.

      4.4.3 As all applicants now bid for housing, there are occasions when a
            number of homeless applicants have made bids for the same
            properties, and in some cases failed to make any bids. This has
            meant that whilst some applicants were successful, others were not
            and they had to wait for the next edition of the property sheet before
            bidding for properties. This has increased the time taken to match
            some homeless applicants to suitable housing.

4.5   Performance Information

      4.5.1 A total of 1654 properties have been advertised in 15 editions of the
            fortnightly Property Sheet. Of those properties 260 were advertised
            more than once as either no bids were received (76 properties), or the
            applicants making bids were not eligible for the properties.

      4.5.2 A total of 30,718 bids were made, with the majority of the bids being
            received by Customer Service Centres (12,003) and the Call Centre
            (10,081).

      4.5.3 The more popular properties advertised which attracted an average of
            between 40 and 100 bids were 2, 3 and 4 bedroomed houses in the
            Riverside and West areas. The only other properties to attract over
            100 bids were 3 bedroomed houses on Bilton Grange and a 2
            bedroomed bungalow on Holderness Road.
      4.5.4 The breakdown of lettings by Band shows that the greater number of
            successful bids (370) was made by Band 4 applicants. Although 64%
            of lettings to applicants in this Band were flats, maisonettes and
            bedsits.

      4.5.5 Of the 591 houses let during the period, Band 1 applicants made
            successful bids for 149 (25%) houses, followed by 143 (24%) to Band
            3, 113 (19%) to Band 4 and 104 (18%) to Band 2.

      4.5.6 The lettings activity for the period April 2005 to October (Pre
            HomeSearch) shows that 32.7% of all offers were either withdrawn by
            the Council or the applicants refused the offers. However, for the
            period November 2005 to April 2006 (Post HomeSearch) only 14.6%
            of offers were either withdrawn or refused. This shows more than
            100% improvement in performance which can be attributed to the new
            bidding and lettings process.

4.6   Impact Assessment

      4.6.1 The total number of applicants on the housing list at 31 st May 2006
            was 9433. The breakdown of the list by ethnic group was 5% BME,
            68% White British and 27% who did not declare their ethnic group.

      4.6.2 Lettings for the period shows that 6% of successful bids went to BME
            applicants, 78% to White British and 16% to those who did not declare
            their ethnic group.

      4.6.3 The following table shows the breakdown of the housing list by age
            group and the % bids made from each group. The final column shows
            the % of successful bids made by applicants who were subsequently
            rehoused during the period.

              No (%) Applicants       % of Each Group          % of Total Lettings
Age Range
               on Housing List          making Bids              for the Period
 16 - 17          211 (2%)                  45%                         5%
 18 – 25         2472 (26%)                 49%                        36%
 26 – 35         2015 (22%)                 48%                        22%
 36 – 45         1637 (17%)                 42%                        17%
 46 – 55         1049 (11%)                 35%                         9%
 56 – 65          846 (9%)                  26%                         6%
 Over 65         1203 (13%)                 15%                         5%
                9433 (100%)                 N/A                       100%

      4.6.4 The table shows that housing applicants in all age groups have
            embraced the HomeSearch system and are actively bidding for
            properties.

4.7   Review Process

      4.7.1 There were four parts to the review process, they were:
               Postal questionnaires
               Report by Corinne Hargreaves (Principal Cabinet Support Officer)
               Meeting with Housing Managers and Estate Managers
               Meeting with staff representatives

      4.7.2 The results of the consultation exercise were considered by two staff
            groups, one group focusing on policy and procedures with the other
            group considering documentation and the Council’s internet site.

4.8   Review Outcomes and Recommendations

      4.8.1 The main recommendations from the review are detailed below.

4.9   Points and Bands

      4.9.1 The Housing Act 1996 requires local authorities to give ‘reasonable
            preference’ to certain categories of person requiring council housing,
            they are:

                   People who are homeless within the meaning of the Housing
                    Act 1996.
                   People who are owed a duty by any housing authority under
                    section 190(2), 193(2) or 195(2) of the 1996 Act or are
                    occupying accommodation secured by any housing authority
                    under section 192(3) eg Homeless people accommodated for
                    the minimum period.
                   People occupying insanitary or overcrowded housing or
                    otherwise living in unsatisfactory housing conditions.
                   People who need to move on medical or welfare grounds.
                   People who need to move to a particular locality in the district
                    of the housing authority, where failure to meet that need would
                    cause hardship (to themselves or others).
                   Additional preference can be given to households owed a
                    homelessness duty as a result of violence or threats of
                    violence, for example victims of domestic violence, racial
                    harassment, same sex couples who are victims of harassment
                    and witnesses to crime or victims of crime who would be at risk
                    if they remain in their homes.

      4.9.2 In order to meet the requirements of the legislation, and to allow for
            applicants who meet more than one of the categories of need, a
            combined points and banding system was developed.

      4.9.3 In order to meet the needs of high priority applicants, bands one and
            two are restricted to the following categories:

                   Band One: Clearance, Homelessness, Prohibition Orders

                   Band Two: Special Allocations, Medical Needs, Care Leavers.

      4.9.4 This restriction means that applicants without a priority can only gain
            access to bands three to nine. The highest band that a non-priority
      applicant can access, irrespective of the number of points awarded, is
      band three.

4.9.5 However, the points/banding scheme does allow applicants who meet
      more than one of the reasonable preference categories to accumulate
      points to reflect their housing need. As an applicant’s needs change,
      they can move between bands three to nine dependent on whether
      they have a high, medium or low level of need.

4.9.6 There have been two court cases recently brought by housing
      applicants in the London area challenging the legality of the lettings
      policies of Camden and Waltham Forest. In both cases the authorities
      had restrictive bands which failed to allow for cumulative need as
      determined by the reasonable preference categories. The courts ruled
      against both authorities, and amendments to their policies were
      enforced by court judgements.

4.9.7 Whilst the Council’s new lettings policy currently meets the
      requirements of the legislation in bands three to nine in relation to
      cumulative need, it is recommended that a new priority category is
      added to band one.

4.9.8 A new category of ‘Additional Preference’ should be used by housing
      management where there are more urgent band two cases, such as:

             domestic violence
             move on accommodation
             those who have more than one person in the household with
              medical needs
             special allocation case with medical needs
             those who are in more than one of the reasonable preference
              categories

4.9.9 This will improve the prospects of more urgent band two cases by
      placing their applications into band one and will ensure that the
      lettings policy complies with legislation.

4.9.10 There has also been some concern over the number of points
       awarded to people living in temporary accommodation, such as:

             Hostels
             Hotels
             Bed and Breakfasts

4.9.11 While some applicants in temporary accommodation may be in bands
       one or two, for other applicants the award of 100 points does not
       always ensure that they appear in band three. In order to rectify this
       issue, it is recommended that the points awarded to households in
       temporary accommodation should be increased to 125 points.
4.10   Weekly Advertising

       4.10.1 Currently, all properties that are allocated through the HomeSearch
              scheme are advertised on a fortnightly basis. Adverts are placed in
              the Hull Daily Mail Home Magazine, HomeSearch Property Sheets are
              distributed and available free of charge in Customer Service Centres,
              Estate Offices, some libraries and other outlets. Properties are also
              advertised on the Hull City Council’s website; however, an online
              bidding system is not available.

       4.10.2 On a couple of occasions, demand for advertising has far exceeded
              the space that is available which has resulted in delays in advertising
              and could potentially have impacted on void turnaround times.
              Although the HomeSearch team have managed to maximise the
              space in the advert, it has still been insufficient. Also, there is
              insufficient space to report feedback through this method and
              feedback sheets have needed to be copied and inserted into the
              property sheets manually. This is neither acceptable nor professional.

       4.10.3 Prior to and since implementation there have been calls from local
              managers to change advertising from fortnightly to weekly due to the
              problem with insufficient space and potential delays this could have on
              turnaround times.

       4.10.4 It is recommended that the weekly advertising of properties is
              implemented subject to identifiable savings.

4.11   Bids

       4.11.1 The number of bids which housing applicants can make from each
              advertisement is limited to three. However, in order to respond to the
              needs of applicants in priority bands one and two, especially when
              there is an urgent need for rehousing eg. Homelessness and
              Clearance, it is recommended that the number of bids be increased to
              six and reviewed after six months. The aim of this amendment is to
              increase the prospects of these customers to be rehoused at the
              earliest opportunity.

4.12   Time Limited Priority

       4.12.1 There are currently no time limits applied to applicants awarded a
              priority on the housing list. This means that even the most urgent
              priority cases could still be awaiting rehousing 3, 6, 12 months or
              more after the award of the priority. Whilst in most cases this does not
              represent any problems, in the case of homeless persons this needs
              to be addressed to ensure that those applicants are offered
              accommodation at the earliest opportunity.

       4.12.2 The main reason for the delay in rehousing some homeless persons is
              the reluctance of those applicants to bid for properties that meet their
               requirements, or only bidding for the highest demand properties in
               their area of choice.

       4.12.3 The most appropriate solution to speed up the rehousing of homeless
              persons is to ‘time limit’ the priority award for a maximum of three
              months. At the end of this period, if the applicant has failed to bid or
              has not been rehoused, then a direct offer will be made of a suitable
              property which meets their needs. If the applicant refuses the offer,
              the priority will be withdrawn, and the application will move down into
              the band appropriate to the applicants housing situation.

       4.12.4 Members are asked to agree in principle to the implementation of a
              time limited priority for homeless applicants in band one.

4.13   Eligibility Criteria

       4.13.1 The rules by which the Council determines the appropriate household
              size for each property type have not really altered for a number of
              years. Now that the Council is advertising the eligibility rules whenever
              a property is included in the Property Sheet, some applicants have
              raised some concerns, for example:

                      Couples would like to be eligible for two bedroom houses
                      Single older people and couples would like to be eligible for two
                       bedroom bungalows (especially if they sometimes require
                       someone to stay overnight)
                      Younger people would like the opportunity to bid for one
                       bedroom flats designated for older people where no bids are
                       received.

       4.13.2 It is recommended that the Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel
              in conjunction with Housing Officers review the eligibility criteria to
              ensure consistency across the city and enable more transparency of
              the lettings process.

4.14   Adapted Housing

       4.14.1 The process of allocating properties adapted for people with
              disabilities is outside of the HomeSearch scheme and not advertised
              for bidding. However, there are proposals to advertise properties with
              minor adaptations, such as:

                      Wet area shower
                      Grab rails
                      Ramps

       4.14.2 Whenever a property with major adaptations becomes available, such
              as:

                      Extension
                      Conversion of two properties into one
                      Stairlift
                    Through the floor lift

              the database of disabled people is used to identify a suitable applicant
              or household. Where a suitable match can be made, after consultation
              with the Occupational Therapist, the offer will be made directly to the
              applicant.

       4.14.3 There are situations however, where there is no such person on the
              adapted property waiting list who matches the property on offer. The
              approach in such circumstances has been to either hold the property
              pending a suitable person being found, or to remove the adaptations
              (usually stairlift), or allocate to an applicant prepared to accept the
              property with the adaptations in place.

       4.14.4 It is recommended that the allocation of adapted Council housing be
              reviewed and advertising through the HomeSearch scheme be agreed
              in principle.

4.15   Sheltered Housing

       4.15.1 Sheltered Housing for older people is currently allocated outside the
              HomeSearch scheme from a separate housing list managed by the
              sheltered housing section.

       4.15.2 Some sheltered housing accommodation and schemes are proving
              more difficult to let due to a lack of demand from older people. This
              includes some one bedroomed first floor flats (without lift) such as
              Burdale Close and Campbell Court in East Hull, and flats (with lifts) in
              Kinthorpe and Laxthorpe on Orchard Park.

       4.15.3 In order to stimulate demand from older people, it is recommended
              that the allocation of sheltered housing be reviewed and advertising
              through the HomeSearch Scheme be agreed in principle.

4.16   Quotas

       4.16.1 In view of the high number of homelessness families awaiting
              rehousing, and the increasing demand from households in clearance
              and demolition areas, applicants in bands one and two make up the
              majority of the successful bids for offers of high demand or more
              popular housing in the city.

       4.16.2 In order to allow applicants outside the priority bands to access higher
              demand housing it is proposed that a quota system be introduced
              which allows a number of properties to be advertised to households in
              bands two, three and below.

       4.16.3 Applicants who have a reasonable preference for housing as
              determined by the Housing Act 1996 should have some access to
              more popular housing in the city.
       4.16.4 It is proposed that the Director of Housing be given authority to review
              quotas for higher demand properties and areas every six months.

4.17   Financial Incentives

       4.17.1 There is a high demand for family housing from high priority groups on
              the housing list, such as homelessness, clearance and special
              allocation cases. However, due to a shortage of such accommodation,
              there are delays in rehousing applicants into more popular family
              housing.

       4.17.2 It is possible to offer incentives to tenants prepared to move into
              smaller housing, such as removal expenses and a relaxation of the
              eligibility rules. This could include older people being able to bid for
              two bedroomed houses if they are relinquishing three, four or five
              bedroomed houses.

       4.17.3 It is recommended that financial incentives are introduced, in principle,
              to encourage older people to transfer into smaller accommodation.

4.18   Delegated Authority

       4.18.1 In view of the need to continually review, assess and amend the
              lettings policy, delegated authority to agree any changes to the policy
              be passed to the Director of Housing and the Portfolio Holder for
              Housing. Any changes should be subject to comments from Scrutiny
              prior to any decision being taken.

4.19   Next Phase of Implementation

       4.19.1 Phase 2 of the Hull HomeSearch project originally included an
              expansion of the current computer system to include on-line bidding,
              and the involvement of other housing providers in the process of
              advertising available housing in Hull.

4.20   On Line Bidding

       4.20.1 As part of Phase 1, a web based advertising system was developed
              by IT Services and implemented on the Hull City Council website.
              Although the website advertises all properties and a search engine is
              available, there is no facility for applicants to bid on-line.

       4.20.2 In view of the success of the HomeSearch website it is proposed that
              the Council retain the current in-house system.

4.21   Housing Associations/Private Sector Housing

       4.21.1 As part of Phase 1, meetings were held with Local Housing
              Associations regarding developing the CBL scheme jointly. However,
              it was felt at that time that they would like more detail on the policy
              and see the full impact of implementation. Therefore, it was agreed to
              include Housing Associations in Phase 2.
            4.21.2 During December 2005, the Housing Association Forum met and
                   Phase 2 of HomeSearch was discussed. They have invited Hull City
                   Council back to the Forum in order to see the outcome of the six
                   monthly review of the Policy/Scheme and to discuss joint working.

            4.21.3 It is recommended that further work is undertaken to explore joint
                   working with Housing Associations and the private sector.

5.   Council’s Aims and Objectives

     5.1    The amendments to Hull HomeSearch will continue to contribute towards
            Quality Services, Quality Living and Quality Neighbourhoods specifically
            through:-

                       Enhancing image and raising aspirations
                       Helping to reinvigorate the housing market
                       Development of fair access to housing for all

6.   Options

     6.1.   Option1 - Proceed without Amendments or Phase Two of HomeSearch

            6.1.1. This option is not acceptable as the current policy in relation to
                   accumulative need in bands one and two fails to meet the
                   requirements of the Housing Act 1996.

     6.2.   Option 2 – Amend the Policy and Proceed with Phase Two Implementation

            6.2.1. This is the preferred option as it ensures that the lettings policy
                   complies with legislation, and continues to meet the Council’s aims
                   and objectives.

            6.2.2. Including Housing Associations in HomeSearch will make more
                   accommodation options available to customers.

            6.2.3. A risk assessment of not implementing the recommendations of the
                   report is attached at appendix 1.

7.   Comments of the Director of Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer

     7.1    Paragraph 4.9.1 - The final bullet point of this paragraph illustrates an
            example of how ‘additional preference’ may be applied by a local authority.
            However, ‘additional preference’ is not limited to homeless applicants and
            can be applied to particular descriptions of people who fall within the
            ‘reasonable preference’ categories listed in paragraph 4.9.1 and who have
            urgent housing needs.

     7.2    Paragraphs 4.9.6-8 - The provisions relating to ‘choice based lettings’
            introduced by the Homelessness Act 2002 are still relatively new. This
            coupled with the pressures upon social housing in many parts of the Country
            mean that it is likely that legal challenges in relation to local authority
             allocation schemes will continue to be common place and landlord
             authorities will need to keep their allocation policies under review to reflect
             current case law. The Legal Services Department will continue to advise the
             Director of Housing on the impact of new case law upon the Council’s
             allocation policy as necessary.

      7.3    Paragraph 4.12.3 – Under Section 193 of the Housing Act 1996 (HA 1996)
             the Council has a duty to secure that accommodation is available for
             occupation by an applicant who is unintentionally homeless and in priority
             need. Under Section 206 of the HA 1996 the Council may discharge its duty
             in several ways, one of which is to secure that suitable accommodation
             provided by the Council is available to the applicant. The Council would
             meet its statutory obligations by adopting the policy described in paragraph
             4.12.3. However, it must ensure that when deciding upon what is suitable
             accommodation, full consideration is given to the requirements of Section
             210 of the HA 1996 and to the circumstances of the homeless applicant.

      7.4    Paragraph 4.16 – It is legally acceptable to introduce quota systems into the
             allocation scheme to enable the Council to have flexibility in meeting the
             needs of persons outside the priority bands 1 & 2. Indeed the Council could
             reserve a quota of properties to applicants outside the ‘reasonable
             preference’ categories. However, it would not be permitted to allow its own
             secondary criteria to dominate the scheme at the expense of those in the
             statutory preference categories detailed at paragraph 14.9.1.

8.    Comments of the Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer)

      8.1    It is clearly wise to keep policies under review to ensure that they are
             achieving the outcomes expected of them, and that they comply with
             changing external requirements. As the proposals will presumably lead to a
             higher rate of occupancy for properties, and therefore a greater level of
             income being achieved without a corresponding increase in costs, this would
             help to improve the HRA's financial robustness.

      8.2    When considering the proposal explained at 4.10 to advertise properties
             weekly it is clear that the corresponding reductions in spending elsewhere
             will have to be identified prior to these additional costs being incurred. If
             there are any delays or difficulties in doing this then that will have a
             consequent impact on how quickly more frequent advertising could be
             undertaken.

      8.3    Similarly prior to the financial incentives outlined in 4.17 being introduced a
             case will have to be demonstrated that the wider financial benefits justify
             incurring any such additional costs."

9.    Comments of the Chief Human Resources Officer

      9.1    The Chief Human Resources Officer has no comments on the report.

10.   Comments of the Portfolio Holder for Housing

      10.1   #
11.   Comments of Overview and Scrutiny

      11.1   #

12.   Conclusions

      12.1   The policy implemented in October 2005 complied with legislation, but
             following two court judgements it is necessary to make minor amendments to
             ensure that the policy complies with both the legislation and court
             judgements.

      12.2   Other suggested amendments will ensure that the policy continues to assist
             those in greatest need.

      12.3   The requirement by the DCLG (Department of Communities and Local
             Government) to engage with other housing providers with a view to including
             their homes in the HomeSearch scheme is an essential part of Choice Based
             Lettings.

13.   Recommendations

      13.1   Include a new category of ‘Additional Preference’ in band one to ensure that
             urgent band two cases are rehoused quickly.

      13.2   The points awarded to households in hostels, hotels, bed and breakfast to be
             increased to 125 points.

      13.3   Implement the weekly advertising of properties subject to identifiable
             savings.

      13.4   The number of bids for people in bands one and two to be increased from
             three to six for each bidding round and reviewed after six months.

      13.5   Agree, in principle, to introduce a time limit of three months for the rehousing
             of applicants with a homeless priority.

      13.6   The Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel in conjunction with Housing
             Officers to review the eligible households rules for Council properties to
             ensure consistency across the city and enable more transparency of the
             lettings process.

      13.7   Agree, in principle, to include sheltered and adapted Council housing in the
             HomeSearch scheme.

      13.8   The Director of Housing to be given authority to review quotas for higher
             demand properties and areas every six months.

      13.9   Agree, in principle, to amend the eligibility rules to allow older people to be
             eligible for 2 bedroomed houses and introduce financial incentives to
             encourage older people to transfer from large Council houses into smaller
             accommodation.
       13.10 In view of the need to continually review, assess and amend the lettings
             policy, delegated authority to agree any changes to the policy be passed to
             the Director of Housing and the Portfolio Holder for Housing. Any changes
             should be subject to comments from Scrutiny prior to any decision being
             taken.

       13.11 Further work to be undertaken by officers to explore joint working with
             Housing Associations and the private sector.



                                      John Hocking
                                   Director of Housing

Contact Officer:     Dave Barnett, Carmen Hopper, Bill Wade.
Telephone No:        612716, 615626, 614394.

Officer Interests:   None

Background Documents: -

(i) Postal survey summary
(ii) Report by Corrine Hargreaves
(iii) Empty Homes and Lettings Service Improvement Group Minutes
(iv) Relet performance 2005/6
(v) Bands and Points Charts
(vi) Revised Points and Bands Charts
(vii) Household Eligibility Tables
                                                                                                                                APPENDIX 1

                                                                                    RISK MATRIX


                                                                                                                                       Residual
                                                                  Current Risk
                                                                                                                                        Risk
                        RISK                                                                         Treatment/Control Action




                                                             Impact




                                                                                                                                    Impact
                                                                          Likeli-




                                                                                                                                             Likeli-
                                                                          hood




                                                                                                                                             hood
Proceed without     amendments       or   phase    2    of                           Implement option 2
HomeSearch.

      The failure to amend the policy to include a new               3      4                                                        2       3
       category of additional preference would mean
       that the Lettings policy is open to challenge as it
       fails to meet the requirements of the Housing Act
       1996 in relation to accumulative need.
      The failure to increase the points for households              4      3                                                        3       2
       in hostels etc could lead to increased use of
       temporary accommodation.
      The failure to introduce a time limit for the
       rehousing of homeless persons could lead to                    4      3                                                        3       2
       increased use of temporary accommodation,
       excessive       time    spent     in     temporary
       accommodation        waiting    rehousing     and
       applicants’ only bidding for the highest demand
       properties.
      A failure to include a quota system would mean                 3      4                                                        2       3
       that the majority of accommodation in the high
       demand areas continues to be allocated to
       homeless persons.

				
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