AGENDA ITEM NO NUNEATON AND BEDWORTH BOROUGH COUNCIL Report to: Cabinet, 13 June 2007 From: Assistant Director - Housing Subject: CHOICE BASED LETTINGS Portfolio: Housing (Councillor B Copland) 1. Purpose of Report To seek formal approval for full participation in the Southern Staffordshire and Northern Warwickshire Sub Regional Choice Based Letting Scheme, in order for us to remain part of the project. 2. Recommendation That Cabinet approves full development and participation in the Sub Regional Choice Based Letting Scheme. 3. Report Two previous reports have been brought to Cabinet to update members on process with development on Choice Based Lettings (CBL). This progress is coming to a critical point, and formal approval for full participation is required in order for us to remain as part of the project. Members are reminded this is a Government requirement by 2010. If we do not join the Sub Region we will be required to develop our own scheme and all relevant systems to operate this. 4. Benefits of Choice Based Lettings 4.1 Our current waiting list system is confusing to applicants, with a complex points scheme that is not easily understood and which makes waiting times impossible to predict. The system is almost entirely geared to the allocation of council housing, which steers applicants away from considering alternative housing choices. CBL gives applicants more say in determining where they live by being able to apply for vacant homes that are advertised. Whilst meeting housing need and homelessness issues it is also the best way to ensure sustainable tenancies. Research shows that where CBL is employed tenants remain in their homes for longer and are more likely to meet their tenancy obligations, building settled, viable and inclusive communities. (CLG, Code of Guidance on allocation of accommodation – choice based lettings. Brown and Yates 2007). www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1505526 4.2 By advertising some vacancies over a regional area, applicants will be able to make a positive and informed choice over where they want to live. This also helps to ease localised problems of high and low demand. 4.3 There is a need to change the perception that social housing is the only solution to the housing problem, by advising applicants on a range of potential options. This is particularly the case for applicants with little prospect of actually getting social housing. CBL will give transparency to the housing situation in the Borough. Applicants will be given more accurate information about their housing prospects and the current housing market. They will be given more targeted advice helping them to make informed, realistic decisions. 4.4 Our Housing Advice Section is in the process of expanding their service, looking at alternative housing options and new housing markets such as the Homebuy scheme (low cost ownership), shared ownership and private sector renting with the assistance of our rent deposit scheme. This will help to reduce the number of applicants needing to be accepted as homeless and help many waiting on the housing register. 4.5 Given the large number of applicants on our Housing Register, at present 3,852 (as at 21 May 2007) and with fewer vacant Council properties becoming available, CBL will encourage other social and private landlords to include their stock within the system. 5. Camp Hill Development 5.1 A housing needs survey is currently being undertaken. However with Housing Associations advertising their properties on a Choice Based Letting Scheme with the Council retaining nomination rights, and later on in the scheme private landlords advertising properties this will give a larger number of properties available. To ensure that priority is given to the Regeneration Scheme, Camp Hill properties will be specifically advertised for applicants from Camp Hill. 6. Vulnerable Groups 6.1 Research clearly shows that vulnerable households like the openness and transparency of CBL schemes. Support must be given through the process of accessing CBL. 6.2 By expanding our services and working with other agencies, support and advice will be given to individuals. Support can be reduced when applicants become more confident, but this can also increase at any stage when their needs change. 6.3 Within the Sub Regional Scheme the government office made particular comment on the strength of support to be provided to individuals within this group. 7. Strength of Sub Regional Approach 7.1 Members will recall the Southern Staffordshire and Northern Warwickshire CBL Scheme included 7 local authorities and 5 Housing Associations which already operate in our Borough. 7.2 By joining this scheme we can utilise an already established and successful choice based letting scheme as Homezone (Lichfield District Council’s Housing Management Organisation) has been using this system since 2003. 7.3 This will enable the Council to use a common allocation framework that will be more cost effective, more transparent and simpler for applicants to understand, particularly those seeking to move between local authority areas. NBBC current housing policy does not need to change. 7.4 The scheme would allow the greatest choice in meeting tenants housing needs bringing together a larger pool of housing stock, breaking down artificial boundaries and recognising existing housing and labour markets. This will enable greater regional mobility and allow partners (Local Authority and Housing Associations) to share development costs. 8. Effect on Void Relet Times 8.1 Research shows that by using a strict advertising cycle, improvements had been made in the housing management process, such as void management, property inspections and tenancy offer stage. 8.2 Further efficiencies achieved included: Advertising properties when the existing tenant gives notice rather than waiting for the property to become vacant. Weekly advertising cycles that ensure there are no delays in advertising properties. 8.3 Research also notes that void figures may increase for a short period, possibly 4 to 6 weeks at the beginning of the scheme until applicants become familiar with the bidding process. 9. Cost Implications 9.1 As reported previously the total cost to join this CBL, which includes software, data transfer, implementation services, annual housing and maintenance charges, is £16,468. This will be met from the Housing Revenue Account. 9.2 As a reminder to members the total cost to implement our own unique CBL scheme is approximately £168,000. 10. Conclusions 10.1 As stated in paragraph 3 there is a requirement for us to have a CBL system by 2010. The Council has a choice of either developing its own system or being part of the Sub Regional consortium at a 10th of the estimated cost of going it alone. 11. Recommendations 11.1 Cabinet approves full development and participation in the Sub Regional Scheme. STEVE CLARK Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council – Report Summary Sheet 1. Name of Meeting: Cabinet 2. Date of Meeting: 13 June 2007 3. Report Title: CHOICE BASED LETTINGS 4. Portfolio: Councillor Bob Copland 5. Ward Relevance: Borough Wide 6. Contact Officer: Jane Beard, Service Development Officer 7. Report Subject to Call-in: Yes 8. Forward Plan: No 9. Corporate Priorities: Key Aim 1.1: To provide a choice of housing to meet the needs of the residents in the Borough. 10. Statutory/Policy Background: Government Priority for all housing providers to implement Choice Based Lettings by 2010. 11. Summary: For Cabinet to approve full development and participation in the sub-Regional Scheme. 12. Equal Opportunities: Improve access and widen choice to housing applicants with housing need including all vulnerable groups. 13. Human Resources The scheme will run with existing Implications: resources. 14. Financial Implications: Refer to point 9 within the report. 15. Risk Management Risk of sanctions from government if Implications: system not introduced. 16. Environmental Implications: None 17. Legal Implications: Not offering equal opportunities and potentially discriminating against applicants. Potentially open to challenge by not offering equality opportunities. 18. Options: None. 19. Recommendation: Cabinet approves full development and participation in the Sub Regional Scheme. 20. Reasons for Progress with development of Sub- Recommendation: Regional Scheme at a critical point and formal approval is required in order for us to remain as part of the project.
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