BOROUGH COUNCIL OF WELLINGBOROUGH
6 January 2011
Report of Head of Service
THE FUTURE FOR SOCIAL HOUSING (CONSULTATION)
1 Purpose of Report
1.1 The purpose of the report is to:
(a) Inform members of the proposed responses to the consultation paper
on Social Housing reform.
(b) Inform members of the potential impact the proposed reform measures
may have on the Council’s Housing Services.
1.2 This report relates to the achievement of the following priorities
(a) Promoting High Quality Growth
(b) Reducing crime and anti-social behaviour
(c) Improving life chances for young people
(d) Delivering efficient and responsive services
(e) Enhancing the Environment
2 Executive Summary
The Government believes that it is time for reform on the allocation, tenure
type and duration for social housing. They believe that systems should
provide for more flexibility so that the scarce public resource and be focused
on those who need it most for as long as they need it. This report summarises
the Government’s proposals and proposes a response to the government’s
consultation questions in appendix A.
See appendix A for proposed responses to questions contained within the
4 Proposed Action:
4.1 The Committee is invited to RESOLVE that the responses to the
Government’s consultation in respect of proposed social housing reforms
in appendix A are communicated to the Department of Communities and
Local Government ;
4.2 The Committee is invited to RESOLVE that a further report be brought to
Committee following the results of national consultation and the possible
implementation of the proposed reform measures.
5.1 On the 22nd November, Communities and Local Government (CLG) published
a consultation document setting out the Government’s plans for radical reform
to the social housing system.
Social housing is an enormously valuable resource, which is greatly important
to the eight million people who currently live in social housing, and the
hundreds and thousands of people who lack good quality, stable, affordable
There are nearly 1.8m households on social housing waiting lists, a
substantial increase since the late 1990s. However, many of those on social
housing waiting lists have no realistic chance of getting housed.
According to the figures used in the 2007 Housing Needs survey for
Wellingborough, 18.3% of residents live in social housing (2005 figures) and
there are a further 1294 currently on the waiting list for this type of
6.1 Main Issues – the main issues discussed in the Government’s consultation
6.1.1 Publication of a strategy
CLG are proposing to legislate to create a duty on local authorities to publish
a strategic tenancy policy. This would set out the broad objectives to be taken
into consideration by individual social landlords in the area regarding their own
policies on the granting and reissue of tenancies. The duty will apply to all –
not just stockholding – local authorities. Local authorities will be required to
draw up the strategic policy in consultation with other social landlords.
They are also proposing that they will take a power to prescribe by regulation
other persons or bodies with which local authorities should consult, such as
tenants and local voluntary and community organisations. The rational for
these proposals is to provide transparency, enabling local communities to
understand clearly how social landlords are responding to local housing needs
6.1.2 Allocations and homelessness duty
CLG intend to take the opportunity offered by the Localism Bill, which will be
introduced shortly, to make a number of changes to the legislation governing
the way social housing is allocated by local authorities, and how the
homelessness duty can be discharged.
Local authorities will no longer be forced to include on their waiting lists for
social housing, those with no real need and no realistic prospect of ever
receiving a social home. Instead they will have the freedom to decide who
should qualify to be considered for social housing, while continuing to ensure
that priority for social housing goes to those most in need. That will allow
landlords to operate a more focused waiting list – one that better reflects need
and local priorities and can be more readily understood by local people.
In addition, CLG are proposing to give local authorities the flexibility to fully
discharge the main homelessness duty by arranging offers of suitable
accommodation in the private rented sector, without requiring consent from
the applicant, subject to certain safeguards. Those owed the duty will no
longer be able to insist on being offered social housing as the only way the
duty can be brought to an end, regardless of whether they have a real need
6.1.3 Flexible tenancies
CLG are proposing to allow greater flexibility to both local authority and
registered provider landlords, enabling them to offer lifetime security where it
is needed, but to set shorter terms where appropriate to do so. They will
introduce a new more flexible affordable rent tenancy. It will be offered by
registered providers (typically housing associations) to new tenants at a rent
higher than social rent and at a maximum of 80 per cent of local market rents
that will be reviewed after an agreed period of time.
They propose the introduction of legislation which will:
(a) Create a new local authority flexible tenancy with a minimum fixed term
of two years. This will be in addition to, rather than replacing, secure
and introductory tenancies.
(b) Protect the rights of existing secure and assured tenants.
(c) Provide local authority flexible tenants with similar rights to secure
tenants, including the right to exchange.
(d) Provide that all new secure and flexible tenancies include a right to one
succession for spouses and partners, but give landlords the flexibility to
grant whatever additional succession rights they choose.
(e) Place a new duty on local authorities to publish a strategic policy on
(f) Allow the Secretary of State to direct on the content of a tenancy
6.1.4 Reform of social housing regulation
CLG propose to legislate to refocus regulation on the areas where it is really
needed – proactive economic regulation and responding to serious service
failures – while giving tenants stronger tools to secure better services locally.
The Tenant Services Authority (TSA) will be abolished and its remaining
functions transferred to an independent committee within the Homes and
Communities Agency (HCA).
6.1.5 Social housing financing
A new ‘Affordable Rent’ tenancy is to be offered by housing associations to
new tenants of social housing from April 2011. Affordable Rent properties will
offer shorter term tenancies at a rent higher than social rent, with landlords
able to set rents anywhere between current social rent levels and up to 80%
of local market rents. Local Authorities will continue to play a key role on
6.2 Local Impact - the potential effects on services within the authority, should
the reforms be implemented.
6.2.1 Homelessness and Allocations services
It is anticipated that housing services will receive increasing demands across
the next four years as welfare reforms are implemented. The proposed
reforms contained in the consultation document, together with the significant
reduction in Local Housing Allowance, will undoubtedly increase the incidents
The proposed changes to tenants’ security of tenure have the potential for
producing negative effects on the vulnerable client groups within our
community. Homeless and vulnerable groups, who will already be
disadvantaged through the Local Housing Allowance reforms and the
resulting lack of housing options, could potentially face a transient future,
being forced to move between tenancy types and terms, denying them the
opportunity to establish settled and sustainable homes within the community.
We will seek to work with Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) to ensure that
these risks to homeless and vulnerable groups are reduced. We will aim to do
this by encouraging RSLs to set out the criteria for tenancy terms and re-
assessments when fixed term tenancies come to an end. Policies will need to
be intensely prescriptive and care will have to be taken to ensure that they are
transparent and non discriminatory.
Housing Options service presently faces some challenges in discharging its
Homelessness duty into the private sector for three main reasons:
(a) Applicants do not wish to go into a private tenancy, as they wish to live
in a settled environment where they will not potentially have to move
every 6 to 12 months.
(b) Shortage of private landlords willing to accept tenants who are reliant
on benefit to pay rent and whose support and related needs are often
(c) Private rents are too high to be covered by the benefits thresholds, a
problem which will increase from April 2011 when Local Housing
Allowance reforms come into force.
The impact of the Government’s proposals is likely to see these challenges
Although these reforms afford the authority the opportunity to discharge its
homelessness duty into the private sector, without having to gain written
agreement from the client, as is the case at present, the main problems will
6.2.2 Housing Strategy service
It is anticipated these reforms will require the Housing Strategy Service to
draw up and assist in the implementation of a new local strategic policy on
tenancies. The formulation of such a policy ideally would be with the Local
Strategic Partnership, RSL's and other existing housing strategy consultees.
The Service will be required to produce frequent housing market information
and local housing supply and demand for varying housing products which will
be required by landlords for when they decide on tenancy terms and type of
tenancy for a particular local area. For example an affordable rent product
may be a better product in an area where there is already a good supply of
social rented tenancies.
Continuing the Service’s work ensuring that all the Authority's stock owning
RSL's are working together and implementing the Housing Strategy and the
local strategic policy on tenancies.
Developers may be more willing to bring schemes together for affordable rent
than for the traditional social rent product due to the potential for higher
returns. The Service will need to ensure it has the capacity and skills to deliver
RSL's will need 'up to date' affordability information, such as incomes, house
prices and housing needs information. The Service is currently investigating a
way in which it can assess 'real time' housing needs. This will be a useful tool
to inform the RSL's of housing demand at a particular time when they are
determining which tenancy type would be more suitable for a particular
location and tenancy term based on local affordability.
The Service will also need to have this 'real time' affordability information for
supporting bids for grant funding to the Housing and Community Agency.
7 Legal Powers
Although the authority will remain legally bound by the existing appropriate
sections of the 1996 Housing Act, it is anticipated that, should these radical
reforms become statute, new additional legislation will be introduced.
8 Financial and Value For Money Implications
None directly arising from this report, however, implications with respect to
finances and value for money will be reassessed once the Government’s final
proposals are published.
9 Risk Analysis
A risk assessment will be carried out following the outcome and decisions
made as a result of responses to this consultation.
Nature of risk Consequences Likelihood of Control
if realised occurrence measures
Vulnerable Increased in Medium Council to work
people approaches due with RSL to
disadvantaged to ensure tenancy
by proposed homelessness policies take
reforms Increased costs account of the
to Council in needs of
time and money vulnerable
10 Implications for Resources
None directly arising from this report, however, implications with respect to
resources will be reassessed once the Government’s final proposals are
11 Implications for Stronger and Safer Communities
None directly arising from this report, however, implications with respect to
stronger and safer communities will be reassessed once the Government’s
final proposals are published.
12 Implications for Equalities
It is anticipated that an Equalities Impact Assessment will be carried out when
new and/or amended policies and procedures have been dictated.
13 Author and Contact Officer
Sue Atkins – Housing Needs Manager
Terry Wright – Corporate Director
Vicki Jessop – Housing Strategy Manager
Clive Culling – Housing Renewal Manager
15 Background Papers
Local Decisions: fairer future for social housing – Consultation document
QUESTIONS WITHIN THE CONSULTATION DOCUMENT WITH BCW’S RESPONSE.
Question 1: As a landlord, do you anticipate making changes in light of the
new tenancy flexibilities being proposed? If so, how would you expect to use
these flexibilities? What sort of outcomes would you hope to achieve?
Not applicable, not a stock owning Local Authority
Question 2: When, as a landlord, might you begin to introduce changes? N/A
Not applicable, not a stock owning Local Authority
Question 3: As a local authority, how would you expect to develop and publish a local
strategic policy on tenancies? What costs would you expect to incur?
A local policy would be drawn up with partners in the LSP, existing housing strategy
consultees; Registered Providers (RSL’s), tenants and residents, statutory and voluntary
agencies who are already working closely with the Council to deliver area based initiatives.
Costs of consultation such as venue hire, production of documentation would be standard
costs for this exercise.
Question 4: What other persons or bodies should local authorities consult in drawing
up their strategic tenancy policy?
Business partners, developers and land owners.
Question 5: Do you agree that the Tenancy Standard should focus on key principles? If
so, what should those be?
It is felt that the TSA produced good prescriptive standards as a result of well informed
responses to a comprehensive consultation exercise. Therefore it is felt that the current
tenancy standards, which are based on four elements, allocations, rent and tenure, should be
maintained. However, it is felt that it would beneficial to strengthen the commitment to
supporting the most vulnerable tenants such as elderly and those with physical and mental
Question 6: Do you have any concerns that these proposals could restrict current
flexibilities enjoyed by landlords? If so, how can we best mitigate that risk?
The proposals appear to be offering landlords more flexibility rather than restricting them.
Having flexible tenancies will provide landlords with greater flexibility as they will have the
option to provide the appropriate tenancy for the persons housing and economic needs.
Question 7: Should we seek to prescribe more closely the content of landlord policies
on tenancies? If so, in what respects?
Policies will have to be more prescriptive regarding the assessment of the tenants housing
need, financial and employment position as well as need for support and a level of security.
The review and re-evaluation process, prior to a fixed term tenancy coming to an end, will
have to be carried out three months in advance, policies for the parameters of the criteria will
need to be clearly defined and available for everyone concerned. It is of concern that the re-
evaluation of tenants at this stage will be largely based on finance and behaviour regardless of
whether the tenant continues to require support and security. It is felt that there Is a danger
that the evaluation process could be used as a process for removing difficult to manage
Question 8: What opportunities as a tenant would you expect to have to influence the
Response provided by RSL’s following consultation with tenants.
Question 9: Is two years an appropriate minimum fixed term for a general needs social
tenancy, or should the minimum fixed term be longer? If so, how long should it be?
What is the basis for proposing a minimum fixed term of that length? Should a
distinction be drawn between tenancies on social and affordable rents? If so, what
should this be? Should the minimum fixed term include any probationary period?
Two years in a fairly typical fixed term in the private sector. To ensure that the local population
in most housing need does not become a transient one, which could lead to increases in
homeless cases, a two year minimum would be seen as too short. A tenancy of 5 years would
be recommended for a general needs social tenancy with the opportunity to extend to 10 and
20 years depending on continuing housing and support need and income. The length of term
will have to be determined following a comprehensive assessment of the households housing
and support needs and their aspirations and prospects. Longer term tenancies would be
appropriate where properties have undergone extensive adaptations.
Perhaps there should be no distinction between the social rent properties and the affordable
rent properties, although we expect that the affordable rent properties will be of a higher
standard in more desirable areas. It is felt that everyone should have equal access to both. It
is also felt that short term tenancies would not give tenants the incentive to take care of the
property, as they would not feel that it is a settled home. The 6 month probationary period
should be before the fixed term commences.
Should we require a longer minimum fixed term for some groups? If so, who should
those groups be and what minimum fixed terms would be appropriate? What is the
basis for proposing a minimum fixed term of that length? Should a distinction be drawn
between tenancies on social and affordable rents? If so, what should this be?
Households with children should be given a minimum of 5 years before re-assessing. If the
main or joint applicant who has a permanent or long term illness or disability should have a
longer term as their need for secure accommodation is greater. Perhaps households with
children should have longer term tenancies and be re-assessed when the children have left
the family home, as this would give the opportunity to address under occupation Issues.
Question 11: Do you think that older people and those with a long term illness or
disability should continue to be provided with a guarantee of a social home for life
through the Tenancy Standard?
Yes, this group should have priority as they have little or no prospects of improving their
financial status or ability to secure and sustain accommodation in the private sector. People in
this group are less likely to be able to secure privately rented accommodation which can be
adapted to suit their needs.
Question 12: Are there other types of household where we should always require
landlords to guarantee a social home for life?
If the main or joint applicant who has a permanent or long term illness or disability should have
a longer term as their need for secure accommodation is greater. Perhaps tenants who are
main carers for a dependant who is severely disabled. People with enduring mental health
and/or learning difficulties who require the stability and support that social housing provides.
Question 13: Do you agree that we should require landlords to offer existing secure and
assured tenants who move to another social rent property a lifetime tenancy in their
Yes as this would deter people from wanting to move, which would compromise attempts to
free up larger properties by down sizing. It would also discourage people being more mobile
in order to find employment.
Question 14: Do you agree that landlords should have the freedom to decide whether
new secure and assured tenants should continue to receive a lifetime tenancy when
It is felt that tenants should carry over the same level of security when they move, assuming
that most or all assured tenants will be in the most vulnerable client groups. A lifetime tenancy
granted on the basis of disability or for the elderly should continue to be provided when they
move. An opportunity may also exist to award a lifetime tenancy from a fixed term if the
occupier is moving from an under occupied home.
Question 15: Do you agree that we should require social landlords to provide advice
and assistance to tenants prior to the expiry of the fixed term of the tenancy?
It is felt that social landlords should be required to provide advice and assistance prior to the
expiry of the fixed term. This will need to be well in advance and be prescriptive as to the level
of advice and assistance, as this could range from providing a list of private landlords to
assisting through a rent assistance scheme. We would assume that before ending a fixed
term tenancy, the RSL will be satisfied that the tenant has the capacity to secure and sustain a
tenancy in the private sector or low cost home ownership property.
Question 16: As a landlord, what are the factors you would take into account in
deciding whether to reissue a tenancy at the end of the fixed term? How often would
you expect a tenancy to be reissued?
Question 17: As a local authority, how would you expect to use the new flexibilities to
decide who should qualify to go on the waiting list? What sort of outcomes would you
hope to achieve?
We would consider disallowing applicants with no housing need to register on the housing
waiting list as it is felt that this can promote unrealistic expectations. This would also
encourage people who simply wish to move, consider other options.
Question 18: In making use of the new flexibilities, what savings or other benefits would
you expect to achieve?
The administration of longer lists are more labour intensive, therefore, to operate a shorter list
would be more cost effective.
Question 19: What opportunities as a tenant or resident would you expect to have to
influence the local authority’s qualification criteria?
Question 20: Do you agree that current statutory reasonable preference categories
should remain unchanged? Or do you consider that there is scope to clarify the current
It is felt that the existing reasonable preference categories should remain unchanged.
Question 21: Do you think that the existing reasonable preference categories should be
expanded to include other categories of people in housing need? If so, what additional
categories would you include and what is the rationale for doing so?
Question 22: As a landlord, how would you expect to use the new flexibility created by
taking social tenants seeking a transfer who are not in housing need out of the
allocation framework? What sort of outcomes would you hope to achieve?
Question 23: What are the reasons why a landlord may currently choose not to
subscribe to a mutual exchange service?
There may not be schemes in every area of the country, therefore, it would not be beneficial to
landlord or their tenants, and it costs the individual RSL to register. A tenant can apply to join
even if their landlord it not a member, however, there would be a cost to them also.
Question 24: As a tenant, this national scheme will increase the number of possible
matches you might find through your web-based provider, but what other services
might you find helpful in arranging your mutual exchange as well as IT-based access?
Question 25: As a local authority, how would you expect to use the new flexibility
provided by this change to the homelessness legislation?
As an authority we already discharge duty into the private sector, however, due to availability
problems In relation to this tenure type in our area, we do not anticipate a significant increase
in this method of ending a homelessness duty.
Question 26: As a local authority, do you think there will be private rented sector
housing available in your area that could provide suitable and affordable
accommodation for people owed the main homelessness duty?
It is felt that, although there may be a reasonable supply of privately rented accommodation in
our area, there is a significant lack of landlords willing to work with the our authority in
performing their homelessness duty, as a large proportion of homeless clients rely on benefit
to pay their rent, they often have greater support needs and they often present more
challenging management issues.
Question 27: Do you consider that 12 months is the right period to provide as
a minimum fixed term where the duty is ended with an offer of an assured short hold
tenancy? If you consider the period should be longer, do you consider that private
landlords would be prepared to provide fixed term assured short hold tenancies for that
longer period to new tenants?
It is felt that 12 months would not be long enough in most cases and that it would lead to the
revolving door syndrome as homelessness would occur again in the majority of cases. Our
experience with private landlords would indicate that, once a tenancy had been conducted In a
satisfactory manner for the Initial 6 months, they may be willing to extend the term. However,
in the current economic climate, we are finding that landlords are being forced to sell or move
into the properties themselves, therefore, even in the event that they would consider granting
longer terms, it is not always possible. Immanent changes to Local Housing Allowance will
have a significant detrimental effect on the confidence private landlords will have letting to the
client groups with whom we work.
Question 28: What powers do local authorities and landlords need to address
It is felt that the Housing Act 2004 Part 1 HHSRS assessment of overcrowding should now be
used. The Housing Act 1985 Part X is an outdated and inadequate means of assessing
reasonable occupation levels for dwellings. The appropriate means of dealing with
overcrowding should be assessed, as for all hazards, giving due consideration to the
circumstances of the occupiers and the consequences of the action taken.
Question 29: Is the framework set out in the 1985 Housing Act fit for purpose?
Are any detailed changes needed to the enforcement provisions in the 1985 Act?
Repeal the Housing Act 1985 Part X Overcrowding
Question 30: Should the Housing Health and Safety Rating System provide the
foundation for measures to tackle overcrowding across all tenures and landlords?
Yes (see Question 28).