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Closed consultation: Draft Norwich Home Options Allocation Scheme 2021

Consultation closed 26 January 2021

Introduction

By law, we must have an allocations policy, which sets out who can apply for council and housing association properties (social housing) in Norwich, who gets priority and how we ensure homes go to those in the greatest need.

Since 2009, the council’s allocation policy has been called Home Options and social housing in Norwich and has been allocated through the Home Options scheme. 

The Home Options policy was last updated in 2015 and now needs to be updated.  We will seek to align the policy with the Homelessness Reduction Act and welfare reform. We also need to ensure that our allocation policy meets the council’s objectives and also effectively prioritises the 3,800 applicants currently waiting to be housed.

This draft policy is designed to give our applicants, residents, stakeholders and partners the opportunity to participate in the development of the new policy by commenting on the information and changes presented in the document.

Please take five minutes to read the policy and key changes (below) before completing our brief online survey.

If you are making specific comments on text within the policy please refer to the section number in your response.

Consultation for the policy will start on 15 December 2020 for six weeks ending at 26 January 2021.

Draft policy for consultation

Complete the online survey

Key proposed changes

1. Overcrowding

Aim:

To bring policy into line with benefit (‘bedroom tax’) legislation and ensure effective prioritisation of those in greatest need.

Current policy:

  • Two children of different gender are expected to share a bedroom until the oldest child is 6 years old, at which time the family is classed as lacking one bedroom.

Recommended changes:

The council will use the following guidelines to assess the level of overcrowding:

  • Two children of different gender are expected to share a bedroom until the oldest child is 10 years old, at which time the family is classed as lacking one bedroom.
  • An infant under 6 months is expected to share a bedroom with their parents. 

2. Children in flats

Aim:

To ensure effective prioritisation of families in blocks of flats.

Current policy:

  • Silver band will be awarded where households with a child aged 10 or under live in accommodation without a garden on the same level as the property.

Recommended changes:

  • Silver band will be awarded where households with a child aged 10 or under live in a flat or maisonette that does not have a garden.
  • Where the household includes a child aged 6 or under and lives in a property on the third floor or above where there is no lift access, an extra unit of priority will be added.     

3.  Homelessness prevention and relief

Aim:

To update policy to take account of the 2018 Homelessness Reduction Act.

Current policy:

  • (Priority will be awarded where) Applicants who are homeless or threatened with homelessness who are likely to lose their accommodation through no fault of their own, for which there is no legal redress, in the next 12 weeks, who are assessed by the council’s housing advice team as likely to be in priority need and who are receiving and acting upon housing advice from the council to prevent homelessness.The council reserves the right to withdraw gold band awarded on the grounds of homeless prevention if the applicant is not bidding for all suitable properties, refuses the offer of a suitable property or fails to act on the advice of their housing adviser in order to prevent their becoming homeless. 

 Recommended change:

  • Gold band will be awarded to applicants to whom the council has accepted a prevention of homelessness or relief of homelessness duty under the Homelessness Reduction Act, who are assessed by their housing adviser as likely to be in priority need and where Home Options is assessed by them to be an appropriate solution. Applicants will have completed and kept to a personalised housing plan made with a housing adviser, will place two bids per week with the guidance of their adviser and will be entitled to one suitable offer of accommodation.  Refusal of the offer or failure to follow advice given will mean the council’s duty to the applicant is ended and gold banding will be removed.
  • Silver band will apply on the above basis to applicants likely to have no priority need
  • Bronze band will apply on the above basis to applicants with a reduced preference       

4. Hostel move-on:

Aim:

To expedite through-flow from hostels and reduce rough sleeping.

Current policy:

  • Gold band will be awarded to applicants in supported housing/hostels who participate in the Norwich hostel move on agreement and are assessed as needing to move on as determined by a Housing Options team leader or manager following the required evidence and risk assessment being submitted from an accredited supporting agency. The applicant must have completed an approved tenancy awareness course and there will be a suitable support package in place so that it is reasonably expected that any tenancy will be sustained.

Recommended change:

  • Applicants in supported housing/hostels who participate in the Norwich hostel move on agreement who are assessed as needing to move on as determined by a member of the Housing Options team and the Norwich Accommodation Meeting of hostel providers will be direct let into a social housing tenancy following the required evidence and risk assessment being submitted from the support provider. The applicant must have demonstrated that they are able to maintain a tenancy, for example through an approved tenancy awareness course and there will be a suitable support package in place so that it is reasonably expected that any tenancy will be sustained.
  • Applicants that meet the criteria set out above but who are subject to ‘reduced preference’ (for example because they do not have a two-year local connection) will be placed in the bronze band.

Following closure of the consultation period, we will collate and use responses to inform our final draft of the allocations policy, which will be presented to cabinet for consideration.