Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 4TH FEBRUARY, 2013
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION): 16TH JANUARY, 2013
“ INTERIM REVIEW OF THE HOMES4U ALLOCATION POLICY (DVSH) –
The Committee was apprised of the proposed alterations to the Council’s existing HOMES4U policy to mitigate some of the potential adverse impacts as a result of the forthcoming Housing Benefit reforms under the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Agenda.
The Operational Manager for Public Housing informed the Committee that a draft version of the report had been considered and approved by the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) Welfare Reform Task and Finish Group.
The objective of the proposed alterations to the existing Policy was to prioritise existing tenants that were likely to be adversely affected by the Accommodation Cap under the welfare changes. Committee noted that there were currently over 600 households that would be adversely affected by the reforms and this was therefore likely to result in significant financial hardship in most cases. The report also detailed a breakdown by residents who were likely to be affected as a consequence of the introduction of the accommodation cap.
The amendments in essence would allow properties to be advertised more clearly, and ensure that applicants were placed in accommodation that they were able to afford and were suitable for the size of their family in line with the new guidelines. These changes would also be reflected in the HOMES4U Allocation matrix which set out what types of properties applicants would be considered for, details of which were appended to the report.
The proposed amendments related to the following matters:
· additional preference to be awarded for those tenants under occupying accommodation, on a discretionary basis in addition to the GOLD priority banding
· additional preference given to existing tenants who were lacking a bedroom, on a discretionary basis, where a move to a larger property would not conflict with the reforms
· changes made to the HOMES4U Allocation matrix to ensure applicants were only considered for properties that were suitable in line with the reforms.
Allied to the above issues, a Local Lettings Policy would take account of all new developments in partnership with Housing Associations with preference given to existing tenants and those under occupying their current accommodation.
As a result of the welfare reforms there would also be a greater emphasis on mutual exchanges to allow existing tenants to source more suitable properties across the HOMES4U partnership. Officers would promote, source and actively manage mutual exchanges for the benefit of tenants in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Committee was reminded of a number of joint working initiatives with Housing Benefits and with the existing HOMES4U partnership organisations attempting to minimise the impact of the reforms and ensuring that consistent and timely information was provided in a variety of formats including open day events, distribution of leaflets, letters, home visits, improved money advice and amendments to the existing web pages for both the Council and housing associations. All these facets were being overseen and scrutinised by the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) Welfare Reform Task and Finish Group.
The Operational Manager also made reference to the proposed introduction of the Universal Credit which would also have a potential adverse impact on individuals as they were expected to manage their own benefits and expenditure entirely for the first time as opposed to the housing benefit paid directly to the landlord. The introduction of such measures had the potential to see an increase in rent arrears which may peak during the next financial year. It was anticipated that the increase required in the Council’s Provision for Doubtful Debts had been estimated at £170,000 for the financial year 2013/14.
Having regard to the above and related issues it was
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the proposed alterations to the Council’s HOMES4U policy be endorsed and be recommended to the Cabinet for approval.
Reason for recommendation
To prioritise tenants adversely affected by the Accommodation Cap and other Welfare Reform changes to transfer to smaller properties which were suitable for the needs, but also affordable.”
Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 16th January 2013