DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION Shropshire Affordable Housing Allocation Policy DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION If you or someone you know would like this publication in large print, Braille or on audio tape please contact us and this will be arranged. If you would like this publication in another language, we can translate it for you. Contact Details: Brighid Carey North Shropshire District Council Edinburgh House New Street, Wem, Shrewsbury, SY4 5DB Telephone Number: 01939 232771 Email: BCarey@northshropshiredc.gov.uk DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION CONTENTS Introduction Aims Of The Affordable Housing Allocation Policy Overview of the Policy Your Housing Options The Scope of the Affordable Housing Allocation Policy Equal Access To Affordable Housing For All Your Home, Your Choice Support For Vulnerable People Local Letting Plans Sensitive Lets Affordable Home Ownership 4 6 7 7 8 8 9 10 10 11 11 DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION Introduction The Shropshire Affordable Housing Allocation Policy and Allocation Scheme has been developed by the new unitary Shropshire Council in consultation with tenants, applicants, housing associations and other stakeholders. The Policy and Allocation Scheme will be continually evaluated to ensure affordable housing is targeted towards those in greatest housing need and to ensure our statutory responsibilities are fulfilled. There are a range of affordable housing options in Shropshire, including low cost home ownership. The options covered by this Affordable Housing Allocation Policy and Allocation Scheme are social rented housing shared ownership. It is a Government priority that all Councils should extend choice to housing applicants by 2010. In establishing the new unitary Shropshire Council, we have taken the opportunity to move to an Allocation Scheme founded on Choice Based Letting (CBL) involving local housing associations. We are introducing a single unified Housing Register (Housing Waiting List) which will apply to all affordable housing providers in the County. This means applicants will only have to complete one housing application form to be considered for accommodation by all local affordable housing providers in the County. The Policy and Allocation Scheme apply directly to homes owned by the Council in the former Oswestry Borough and Bridgnorth District Council areas and those owned by partner housing associations. Our main housing association partners include: Severnside Housing Association South Shropshire Housing Association Meres and Mosses Housing Association ????? ????? ?????? This new Affordable Housing Allocation Policy and Allocation Scheme applies to all applicants for housing, including existing applicants. If you are already on a Housing Register or Housing Waiting List within the County, your application will be re-assessed under the new Policy. You will receive a letter confirming the details of your application and explaining your Band. Your original application date will be honoured. Partnership working with housing associations and Private Landlords in the County will continue to assist in addressing the housing needs of applicants on the Housing Register. We are also actively engaged in further partnerships with private developers to increase the supply of affordable housing across the County and to provide a range of affordable housing options. This document explains how the Affordable Housing Allocation Policy and Allocation Scheme works and provides information about the affordable housing options available in Shropshire. It explains the new Choice Based Letting system and how it operates. A booklet called ?? we need a booklet/leaflet ?? is available and explains how the allocation scheme works. It is available from any Shropshire Council Office, Etc Etc and on our website : www.newwebsiteaddress.gov.uk DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION If you have any questions or comments about the policy please contact : Contact details Brighid Carey North Shropshire District Council Edinburgh House New Street, Wem, Shrewsbury, SY4 5DB Telephone Number: 01939 232771 Email: BCarey@northshropshiredc.gov.uk DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION AIMS OF THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING ALLOCATION POLICY There is a very high need for affordable housing in Shropshire. The demand is greater than the supply of housing available and there are many factors to be taken into account when deciding who should have priority for homes when they do become available. This Allocation Policy has the following aims, to: Allow for the greatest degree of choice possible in the allocation of affordable housing Ensure that those in the greatest need of housing have the greatest opportunity to secure it Help contribute to the development of sustainable communities and support the local economy Help us to meet other strategic aims, including enabling vulnerable people to live independently in the community (Supporting People) and to prevent homelessness Provide local lettings and sensitive lettings policies where these contribute to meeting wider strategic aims Achieve mobility for existing tenants Make best use of the housing resources available Contribute to overall mobility within the affordable housing sector Contribute to diversity within our communities and help towards tackling discrimination Enable us to meet our statutory duties _ including where duties are owed to homeless households under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002) Ensure simplicity and transparency, minimizing subjectivity in the allocation of affordable housing Contribute towards meeting the strategic aims of partner agencies including housing associations, Health and Social Care and other key stakeholders DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION Overview of the Policy Your Housing Options This Allocation Policy covers applications for alternative housing. You may currently live in affordable housing and want to move, or you may be applying for your first affordable home. If you want information or advice about the affordable housing that may be available to you or would like help to fill in the application form, please contact your local Housing Options Team or Customer Service Point. Staying in your current home If you would prefer to stay in your current home but feel you need to move, please talk with one of our Housing Options Team. It may be that you are having difficulty managing your home, find it hard to afford rent or mortgage payments, are experiencing domestic violence or harassment from others, or have been asked to leave by your landlord. Our Advisers may be able to help resolve these difficulties and enable you to stay where you are. The Housing Options Team can also provide advice and information about aids and adaptations to assist with disabled living. Affordable Home Ownership House prices in Shropshire have risen dramatically in recent years. More than half of local households cannot afford to buy a home on the open market. A range of affordable home ownership options are available across the County. Please contact our Housing Options Advisers for more information. Private Rented Accommodation If you are looking for private rented accommodation our Housing Options Team can provide information about local letting agencies and provide advice about your rights and responsibilities as a private tenant. We work also with a number of private landlords to help people access the rented accommodation and in some instances are able to help with the deposit through our Rent Deposit Scheme which we run in partnership with the voluntary sector. Nominations to Non-Partner Housing Associations We have nomination rights to housing associations across the County. Many of these are our partners within this Policy and our nomination rights are managed through the CBL scheme. Some housing associations however are not yet members of our Housing Allocation Policy And Choice Based Letting Scheme. When these properties become available, nominations are made in accordance with this Allocation Policy and nominees will be selected through the Allocation Scheme. The Scope of the Affordable Housing Allocation Policy and Allocation Scheme Included In the Affordable Housing Allocation Policy and Allocation Scheme The selection of applicants covered by the Policy and Allocation Scheme are all those covered by Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002. These include: The selection of applicants to be offered tenancies by the Council and our partner housing associations. Nominations for social housing tenancies to other Councils and housing associations outside Shropshire DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION Not Included In the Allocation Policy The following are examples not covered by Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002. These are: Offers of non-secure licences to homeless households given accommodation as part of our duties under Part 7 of the Housing act 1996 as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002. Offers made to secure or other tenants where we have asked them to move rather than in response to an application from them. Assignments of a tenancy (including mutual exchanges). Nominations for offers of assured tenancies, assured shorthold tenancies, or other tenancies or licences from landlords other than housing associations. Equal Access To Affordable Housing For All We are committed to Equality and Diversity, and are determined to ensure our policies, procedures and working practices in both employment and service delivery reflect this. We also ensure legal requirements and good practice guidance such as the Sex Discrimination, Disability and Race Relations Acts, and the CRE Code of Practice in Rented Housing are complied with. Policies and procedures are applied fairly, consistently and respectfully to all people. All applicants have a right to equal access to affordable housing in Shropshire accommodation regardless of their age, disability, ethnic background, gender, nationality, religion or sexuality. Access is reviewed constantly to improve the ways customers can access the service. All applicants will be advised on the variety and choice of property location and amenities available within the County. The aim of the allocation policy is to provide an open, fair, transparent and simple lettings system that customers can use to find a home in an area of their choice wherever possible. Outcomes of the allocation policy will be monitored to ensure it is delivered fairly. Your Home, Your Choice We have introduced a Choice Based Lettings Scheme which at the present time covers social rented and shared ownership accommodation across the County. This Scheme operates within the overall allocation policy to ensure that housing goes to those with the greatest need. There will be certain situations where choice cannot be offered in the allocation of housing – such as where a housing association needs to make a management move as a matter of urgency. These circumstances are detailed within the Scheme. DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION With the exception of these very limited circumstances, housing will only be allocated to applicants who bid for a specific property. All applicants have the opportunity to bid for properties they are entitled to be considered for, having regard to household size and eligibility. The Choice Based Lettings Scheme enables those seeking affordable housing in Shropshire to identify the level of priority they are awarded within the allocation scheme and to develop awareness of the availability of accommodation suitable to their needs within their preferred locality. They can then make an informed decision balancing their need for accommodation with the availability of suitable housing. This means applicants can decide whether to wait until they have sufficient priority to obtain the ideal property, or whether to broaden their view and bid for properties they are more likely to have a chance of obtaining. It will also enable applicants to make an informed choice about whether they wish to seek alternative solutions to meet their housing needs. It must be recognised however that there is very high demand for affordable housing in all areas of Shropshire. This demand cannot currently be fully met from the available resources. Only those in the greatest of need are likely to be able to obtain social rented housing, which means the degree of choice will always be limited. We are committed to extending the choice of housing to those who are accepted as homeless under the statutory duties contained within Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002), as far as is compatible with the effective use of resources and the provision of temporary accommodation. Those accepted as being owed a full duty under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002) will be given 13 weeks from notification of acceptance within which to bid for properties. If at the end of thirteen weeks they have not bid successfully for a suitable home, relevant staff may bid on their behalf for each suitable property that becomes available until a bid is successful. This will then constitute a nomination for the purposes of discharging the homeless duty (further details are given within the Scheme) Support for vulnerable people A wide range of services are available to help vulnerable households access accommodation and live independently. Supported housing will be allocated to applicants who need support to manage their tenancy and to live independently within the community. The support available may be long term or may be needed for a shorter ‘transition’ period to help someone become settled into their home. There are five kinds of housing with support services available in the County: Sheltered housing: these are groups of properties intended for older people which are visited daily by a Scheme Manager (Warden) who may live on the site. Sheltered housing is allocated through the Shropshire Affordable Housing Allocations Policy. Community Alarms: these are properties with an alarm service which is connected to a control centre. There are operators on duty all the time who can summon help should an emergency arise, for example an older person has a fall at home. Accommodation with a community alarm is allocated through the DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION Shropshire Affordable Housing Allocations Policy. More information about community alarms is available from the Housing Options Team. Domestic Violence Refuges : Shropshire has a number of refuges for women and their children who are escaping domestic violence. There are also supportive outreach services operating across the County. Refuge accommodation is not allocated through the Shropshire Affordable Housing Allocations Policy. More information is available from the Housing Options Team Foyer Accommodation for Young People: Shropshire has one Foyer and a number of foyer-style schemes for young people. These schemes provide accommodation and housing support with direct access to training and personal development. Foyer and foyer-style accommodation is not directly allocated through the Shropshire Affordable Housing Allocations Policy. More information is available from the Housing Options Team In addition to these schemes, there are other supported housing schemes in Shropshire providing a range of housing with support, including accommodation with a broad spectrum of support needs eg people with mental health difficulties, people with learning difficulties, people with substance misuse problems, people with acquired brain injuries and ex-offenders. Further information is available from the Housing Options Team. Floating Support: This is individual support provided to people in their own homes for an agreed period of time to help them manage their tenancy and live independently. More information is available from the Housing Options Team Local Letting Plans From time to time, we or our housing association partners may wish to introduce Local Letting Plans. A Local Letting Plan is a plan to develop locally based allocation policies for an identified area or scheme of accommodation. The aim is to target allocation of accommodation in order to achieve one or a number of the following objectives, to: comply with the terms of a s106 Agreement or Planning Condition with respect to a new development develop mixed communities and promote community stability and sustainability take account of particular housing needs identified in the local area address particular letting problems (e.g. low demand for some houses) address an identified imbalance within a community with respect to household profiles DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION Any Local Letting Plan we introduce will respect legislative requirements and will justify clearly the need for it and the community benefits expected to be achieved. Sensitive Lets Sensitive lets can be granted on individual properties. This means the property will usually be let to someone who meets a specified set of criteria, for example having no known history of relevant criminal offences or anti-social behaviour and with a proven history of managing a tenancy successfully. Applicants able to meet the criteria will be selected on a priority basis in compliance with the Allocation Scheme. Affordable Home Ownership There are a range of affordable home ownership options available across Shropshire. The option covered by this Allocation Policy and Allocation Scheme is shared ownership housing. Shared ownership is housing built for part sale and part rent, usually on a 50/50 basis. It is normally held in perpetuity by preventing full ownership by the occupants. Occupiers are usually able to increase the percentage of the equity they own by "staircasing" from for example a 50% share, up to a maximum of 80%. In some cases however, particularly in the market town areas, it may be possible to staircase to 100% ownership. You must normally be in housing need to qualify for affordable home ownership. This means that you must be unable to access suitable housing without some financial assistance and should be eligible for rehousing under this Allocation Policy or any current Local Letting Plan. The housing association selling the property will decide if you qualify by looking at the information you have provided in the attached application form. You will be asked to provide details of your family, where you live now, your savings and investments and any equity in your current home. Your financial situation will also be assessed on your current earnings, the earnings of your spouse or partner and any future expectations of money (for example investments which have matured or money left to you in a will).