New proposals to change Hackney’s housing waiting list
Changes to the Council’s housing register will mean residents with an unrealistic prospect of successfully applying for a Council home will receive additional support to explore other options, under plans released today.
Under proposals to be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on Monday, thousands of households from the 13,400-strong waiting list who are not in the most urgent need will be removed and offered personalised support to explore other options to find a home – rather than spending years waiting in unsuitable housing.
The stark but necessary changes – which follow 11 years of Government funding cuts and little direct funding to the Council to build new social housing – will mean Council staff can prioritise more limited resources to help those in greatest need, such as those who are homeless, in an emergency or have a significant medical need.
The plans, which are similar to those already in place in many other boroughs, follow public consultation between December and March, with hundreds of residents responding. In response to feedback from residents, additional protection for households with children and carers looking after vulnerable children, as well as residents with medical needs, has been included.
Only 600 Council or social housing properties become available every year, leading to more than 100 people bidding for every single home – with many investing time and emotional energy in applications that have no realistic prospect of success as those with urgent needs are prioritised.
Despite the Council’s own in-house housebuilding programme – which receives no direct Government funding – demand still far outstrips supply, and will continue to increase.
Under the plans, from October, the number of bands in the council housing list will be reduced from five to three, plus a transitional band, and the complex points-based system replaced by priority status only. Lower priority households, based on their current circumstances, will no longer qualify for the new register. In addition, the number of times that a non-homeless household can refuse a suitable offer will be reduced.
Hackney, like much of London, is in the midst of a deepening housing crisis. There is a lack of adequate, affordable accommodation in the borough, which has seen the demand for social housing rapidly increase.
The current housing register is simply no longer fit-for-purpose. Our proposed new policy for allocating social housing is fairer and simpler, with a more transparent housing register, better suited to the situation in Hackney today.
I am proud our new policy puts those in greatest need first. I also know that there are many people on our current register who regrettably have no prospect of securing a council home, but have real concerns about their housing. We take our responsibility to these families incredibly seriously too, and are committed to helping them with a new, bespoke service using all the tools at our disposal.
If we don’t make changes to our register, these families will languish there, and we will miss a critical opportunity to engage with them on more realistic housing options and to use our resources in a way that is much more beneficial to them.
Those removed from the register will be supported by a new Council team, which will offer new one-to-one sessions, better links to housing associations, and provide funding to carry out improvements to their existing home to relieve overcrowding. With fewer applications to process, Council staff will have more time to provide vital support and advice.
Even with these changes, households in urgent need will still wait around seven years to be housed, and homeless families will continue to wait an average of four years. The Council has repeatedly campaigned for additional Government investment in a new generation of social housebuilding to help meet demand.
I’m committed to social housing and providing social rented homes for Hackney’s residents. That’s why the Council builds new Council housing. We desperately wish we could offer a council home to everyone who wants and needs one, but, due to the housing crisis, the reality is that the vast majority of people who do not have an acute housing need will never be successful in getting a council or housing association home. We simply do not have enough homes.
Hackney is building. Since launching in 2011, our pioneering, not-for-profit housebuilding programme has directly delivered more than 1,000 new homes in Hackney so that as many people as possible can enjoy a Council home – a model now followed by other councils across London and the UK.
More than half the Council homes we build are for genuinely affordable social rent, shared ownership or Hackney Living Rent. And that’s not all – we’re using income from homes we’re forced to sell under the Government’s Right to Buy policy to help housing associations in Hackney build more social housing. We’re even buying back homes lost under Right to Buy and returning them back to much needed homes for local people.
But the sad fact is that this Government offers very little support to local authorities to build the new generation of Council housing we so badly need, and we will continue to put pressure on the Government to tackle the underlying causes of the housing crisis.