District residents are being asked who should be housed through the council, in a three-month consultation starting today (Thursday).
A combination of reduced job security, restrictions on mortgage lending and higher private rental prices have increased the demand for social housing in the district and the new Localism Act has enabled HDC to readdress the way they house people in need.
While some councils have brought in new guidelines without consulting constituents, HDC has decided to carry out a three-month consultation on the issue.
In the past two years 655 households were added to HDC’s waiting list because they were homeless or in housing need, but in the same period 469 were housed through relets or social housing.
On April 1 2012, the council had 1,161 households on its register with either a need or desire for social housing and in the current economic climate this demand seems likely to increase further.
Karen Spencer, HDC housing needs manager, said: “We need to be looking at what our housing list does and the Localism Act gives us a chance to exclude certain groups, but give priority to other groups not necessarily based on need.
“We have a chance to discharge privately. Should we do that, how should we do it, how far away should they be asked to go [ outside the district]? Councillors will be led by what people think is reasonable.”
Trevor Beadle head of housing and community development added: “It does not change out statutory duty. In the short term we will make sure their issues are resolved. This is more about who received priority when we have so many people needing a scarce resource.”
Other questions being explored during the consultation include:
- Who should qualify to go on the housing register?
- Should low income working households have priority?
- Should households with excellent rent payment history be prioritised above those with arrears or with a history of fraud?
These have proved emotive issues at a national level and HDC has said it is committed to assessing local opinion before determining a local approach.
Cabinet member for safer and healthier district Sue Rogers said: “Councils across the country have consulted about some fairly radical ideas.”
In Waltham Forest, London, for example, a radio debate highlighted that the council is offering people homes in the West Midlands. Some have benefited from this, but others do not want to leave their home town.
Mrs Rogers (Con, Steyning) continued: “As the year rolls on there will be more debate and this is the first step -asking questions that will form the policies.
“We want to do a thorough job and make sure it’s fair and that it’s what people in our district want.”
If residents want to help shape policies that determine who social housing is prioritised for in the Horsham District, it is important that they respond to the consultation by submitting a completed questionnaire before the end of September 2012.
Questionnaires are available on HDC’s website and in the August District News Magazine.
Readers with further questions are encouraged to attend one of a number of public presentations that will be advertised on Horsham District Council’s website as they are arranged.