To receive a report from the Executive Director Place on Homelessness in Enfield. Key Decision Number: 4682
Council is asked to approve the Housing Allocations Policy.
This report was considered at Cabinet on 15 July 2020 and recommended onto Council for final approval.
Councillor Needs proposed and Councillor Yusuf seconded the report of the Executive Director Place on homelessness in Enfield.
1. That this report had been considered and recommended on to Council for approval at the Cabinet meeting held on 15 July 2020.
2. Councillor Needs in proposing this report highlighted the following:
· The country was in the middle of a national housing crisis, following a serious lack of investment in housing. Many people were moving out of Inner London into Outer London and many had been affected by the Government’s housing benefit cap.
· The Council planned to step in to prevent people becoming homeless at the earliest stage and to help equip people with the skills to manage their tenancies better to avoid becoming homeless.
· The Council had developed a bold housing strategy to help reshape the housing market and improve the quality of rented housing. As part of this they would also be running a professional ethical lettings agency for private sector properties.
· The final component of the Council’s recent work in this area was this Housing Allocations Policy which will, for the first time, reward residents who make a success of living in the private rented sector.
· The new scheme will increase transparency in the allocation of social rented homes, based on enduring housing needs: it increases priority for those living in overcrowded situations, increases access to a range of properties, introduces local lettings schemes for new build properties to enable local residents to directly benefit from regeneration activities, increases priority for homeless households who move into the private sector rather than remaining in temporary accommodation.
· It is anticipated that the scheme will go live in December 2020.
3. In order to ensure that residents are treated fairly during the implementation of the policy the following paragraph (included in the council update sheet) has been added to the report:
“We recognise that the gap between the approval of the scheme and its implementation will potentially have an adverse impact on some households where we are discharging our statutory homeless duties into the private rented sector. For households in this position we will award points at the time of implementation of the scheme based on the points that they would have been entitled to, had the scheme been implemented immediately”.
4. The comments of the Majority Opposition Group including:
· While welcoming the report and supporting the need for early intervention, there was regret that the majority opposition group could not support the new allocation scheme because of several issues which are set out below. They indicated that they would have to abstain on the report, if those concerns could not be resolved.
· They felt that the scheme discriminated against those in employment both full and part time.
· Concern about the change to the guidelines on local connection (the Government guidelines previously stated that local connections should be at least 5 years, the new policy was allowing 3 years). The three-year rule would make it easier for those with less connection to be housed before others.
· Concern that those in the armed forces would only be allocated an extra 50 points, the same as allocated to someone who had made themselves intentionally homeless. This was felt to be disrespectful to those who had been in the armed services.
· Concern about the abolition of the garden rule which was felt to be a retrograde step. Young families needed gardens.
· Concern that it had taken too long to reach this stage.
5. The comments from the Majority Group:
· The report was about fairness, looking after the vulnerable. It was important that socially rented properties went to those who needed them most, those with enduring need in situations which were unlikely to improve.
· Extensive consultation has been carried out and the feedback received had helped to develop the policy.
· The policy had been put together as a result of collaborative engagement with the Adult Social Care. It was felt to be right that there should be a shift towards helping people to live in the most appropriate type of accommodation.
· At a time of a national housing shortage, no one should be left behind.
6. Comments of the Minority Opposition Group:
· Support for the scheme, which was commended and hope that it would work, but some concern that it did not address the major problem, a severe shortage of affordable housing.
· That this was an expensive scheme and the true value would only be revealed if it achieved its aims.
· Strong support for the consultation and engagement with tenants and those affected.
· Concern that the IT software may not be able to cope.
· Some concern about whether enough priority had been given to people with disabilities and mixed feelings about the new guidance on garden flats.
· Pleasure at the number of responses received from young people who had been very severely affected by the housing crisis.
· The need to recognise that there should be more attention given to the need for more sheltered housing.
7. The summing up by Councillor Needs expressing the view that some members had not read the paper properly, that the problem with gardens was that there were very few available, that she was confident the correct software was in place, that injured servicemen would be given extra points because of their disabilities and that every year people would be able to gain more points. The policy would also be subject to regular reviews. She was committed to review it in the next few months and confirmed that it was an item on the Housing Scrutiny Panel work programme for review later in the year.
Following the debate, the recommendations in the report were put to the vote and agreed with the following result:
1. To approve the Allocations Scheme, set out in Appendix 1 to the report.
2. To delegate authority to the Cabinet Member for Social Housing to approve minor amendments to the Allocations Scheme.