Saturday 29 December 2012

Getting social housing in Brent to become harder under new proposals

The Housing Allocations Policy that Brent Council is currently consulting on LINK will have major repercussions for residents wishing to go on the register for social housing in the borough. There will particular impact on extended families, people without leave to stay in the UK, young adults living with their parents, those at a specific income threshold, families in rent arrears in the social housing sector or in homeless temporary accommodation.

The Council will no longer have an 'open' waiting list and in addition to having a housing need residents will need to establish a local connection through residence or work. The 'reasonable preference' criteria will include households in employment in addition those below:

· Homeless people as defined by Part VII of the 1996 Housing Act, including people who are intentionally homeless and those who are not in priority need

· People who are owed a duty under section 190(2), 193(2) or 195(2) of the 1996 Act (or under section 65(2) or 68(2) of the Housing Act 1985) or who are occupying accommodation secured by any housing authority under s192(3)

· People occupying insanitary or overcrowded housing or otherwise living in unsatisfactory housing conditions

· People who need to move on medical or welfare grounds, including grounds relating to disability

· People who need to move to a particular locality in the housing authority area, where failure to meet that need would cause hardship (to themselves or others)
The Council state that legislation forbids it to give assistance to individuals subject to immigration control:
A restricted person is a person subject to immigration control who is not eligible for homelessness assistance because he or she does not have leave to enter or remain in the UK or has leave which is subject to a ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition (s.184(7) of the 1996 Act).
The Council seeks views for when the individual subject to immigration is a member of a wider household:

Note that it is not mandatory to exclude a person subject to immigration control from a household, although a household cannot be regarded as having reasonable preference solely on the basis of the needs of a person subject to immigration control as noted above. The council is minded to adopt this exclusion but views on the point would be welcome.
 The Council its definition of what constitutes a 'household' for the purposes of allocation of accommodation. It excludes the  extended families sharing accommodation that are common amongst some ethnic groups in Brent:

Considered as households:

-A single person without dependents
- A married couple
-An unmarried couple, who can prove that they have been resident together for at least 12 months at time of application and at time of offer.   
-A lone parent and their dependent children   
-A married or unmarried couple with dependent children   
-A civil partnership with or without dependent children
 The following would not usually be considered to be part of a household when considering qualification and priority for housing:
· Anyone subject to immigration control
· non-dependent adult children over the age of 21
· other adult relatives
· non-relatives and lodgers
· Extended family members such as cousins, nephews, aunts and uncles
The scheme excludes the following:
-A young person aged 21 or over and therefore not treated as a child would not normally be considered as part of a household and will usually be disregarded when considering applications for rehousing.
- If there are children aged 21 or over who are living at home, advice will be provided on housing options but they will not count towards any calculation of overcrowding. They will be able to apply for housing in their own right but may be disqualified if they do not fall within any of the priority groups defined in this scheme.
- Given the severe shortage of housing and in particular of larger homes, the Council will consider whether people living in a household could move into smaller homes of their own, thereby creating a separate household. If a household member has already made a separate housing application they will not be included in any new or subsequent applications.
 The proposals introduce income thresholds that will try and shift those in need of housing into the private renting sector (which has grown enormously in Brent according to the most recent census and which Muhammed Butt has pledged to improve in terms of quality) or shared ownership.

The ranges which will be reviewed regularly are set at:

· 1 bed - £35,000 a year
· 2 bed - £45,000 a year
· 3 bed - £ 55, 000 a year
· 4 bed - £70,000 a year
 The Council states that in assessing the number of bedrooms required by a household, the following criteria will apply: 
· One double bedroom for a cohabiting couple
· One double bedroom for two additional persons/children of the same sex and generation.
· One double bedroom for two children of the opposite sex, where both children are under 7 years.
· One double bedroom for two children of the same sex unless one is over 10 years of age and there is an age gap of more than 5 years.
· One double bedroom for two dependents of the same sex over 18 years of age.
· One single bedroom for each person who the Council's Medical Officer considers should have their own bedroom on health grounds.
· One single bedroom for any other person included as part of the household.
· Single people will normally be considered for Bedsit accommodation.
· A couple or single parent with a child under two years of age can be
 offered a one bedroom property.
In addition the Council propose that the following categories will normally not qualify:

· Anyone guilty of serious anti-social behaviour where a possession order is being sought or has been obtained
· Anyone who has assaulted a member of staff where an injunction has been sought or obtained
· Anyone who knowingly gives false or misleading information or withholds information that has been reasonably requested.
· Applicants with an income above the limits set out above
The following will apply to housing transfers:

-Tenants with rent arrears of six weeks or more will be suspended from receiving the offer of accommodation. Consideration will be given to varying this rule in some circumstances including;
-Tenants with urgent management or medical priority in band B or A may be transferred at the discretion of the Rehousing Manager.

-Offers of accommodation may be made despite rent arrears to tenants who need to move because of statutory overcrowding or because of an overriding priority awarded by the Allocations Panel or where a permanent decant is essential

-Tenants moving under the Incentive Scheme subject to the above guidelines may be made an offer with the incentive payment being set of against the arrears
Families in temporary accommodation may also face problems

· Homeless households in temporary accommodation may be advised that, if they fall into rent arrears, their housing register application may be suspended. Applications may be suspended when an applicant either

a) refuses to pay the rent
b) fails to make a commitment to repay arrears or
c) fails to provide supporting information for a Housing Benefit claim.
d) accrues an excessive level of arrears
e) is in arrears such that the landlord is taking action to end the tenancy
· If an applicant falls into arrears, their application may be suspended. The application will remain suspended until the arrears are cleared or an agreement has been reached to clear the arrears and this agreement has been kept to for an agreed period. Depending on the amount of the arrears and the nature of the agreement, discretion may be exercised to review cases and lift suspensions. Exceptions may be agreed to this policy, in particular for those cases in bands 1 or 2.
The Council recognises that private sector tenants on the register may be in difficulty because of the welfare reforms:

The council is not minded to introduce any blanket restriction on cases involving rent arrears, in particular since recent and proposed reforms to the welfare system increase the risk that some households may not be able to cover their full rent and because there are cases in which a move may assist in tackling rent arrears, for example where a household moves to a cheaper home
 There are additional detailed proposals regarding carers and military personnel that can be found in the main document.

The Consultation specifically asks for views on:
  • The period that should be required to establish a local connection
  • How that should be demonstrated through employment (inc part-time and self-employed)?
  • What othjer factors could be taken into account to establish a local connection?
  • In what circumstances should the Council make exceptions to the local connection requirement?
  • What other groups should not qualify under the scheme?
  • Should anyone subject to immigration control not be considered as part of the household?
  • At what age should non-dependent adult children not be considered part of the household (18.21.25)?
  • Are there other people who should normally be considered as part of an applicant;s household?
  • In what circumstances should rent arrears mean that a household should not qualify or that an application should be suspended?
  • The circumstances in which a transfer application can be made outside the scheme (see main document for details)
  • Details regarding how long applicant should have been in employment (see main document)
  • Are the proposed bands that rank applicants according to level of needs appropriate (see main document for details)
  • Time limits on bidding for accommodation (see main document)
  • Should the income thresholds be as set out above?
  • Details setting out factors defining 'reasonable preference criteria' (see main document)
 The main consultation document can be found HERE and should be read before responding as it is not possible to cover all the issues in this posting. I hope however that this is sufficient to alert readers to the serious issues involved. The consultation closes on March 8th 2013


Anonymous said...

The reference to linking 'employment' to 'reasonable preference' for social housing entitlement reminds me of a BBC West Midlans news story 'Black Country councils' call to run local jobcentres'. I thought when hearing that story, "What does Brent Council's incompetence regarding recognising local needs and entitlements say about local councils' suitability for 'identifying and responding' to local needs?"

What about the prospectus for those whose main 'employment' is unwaged, with no real 'bargaining power', who are on the 'hiding for nothing' of 'jobseeking' that has been made worse by inappropriate 'workplace demands'? I believe it should be borne in mind that many people in regular waged employment do more damage to society through the nature of their 'employment' than the people whose 'full time occupation' is keeping themselves together in the face of their having an impairment in a very disabling society.

Alan 'Raymondo' Wheatley of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

Trevor said...

you all know now that when so called new Labour were assuring us that things could only get better
they were clearly empty words and empty promises because if it was true why would this website be informing you that social housing in Brent will be hard to get in the near future?
and of course the ones currently causing things to get difficult would undoubtedly assure us that this an example of tough love and then they would inevitably blame the former Labour government etc etc because that's how they operate.
in my opinion so called social housing in Brent has always been of poor quality.
from the Old Chalkhill estate right down to the estate that replaced it.
having lived in both for years I can say in all honesty that the quality is consistently poor.
one consistent flaw is regarding sound proofing material, the inadequate amount in the flats on the old Chalk hill estate made life for me and I'm sure many others an absolute misery and daily torment because everyday neighbors could be clearly heard dragging chairs across un carpeted floors and kids could be heard running up and down in the walkways shouting and screaming and kicking footballs etc which of course are things that causes people to feel frustrated and miserable to say the least and because the sounding material problem was never dealt with it meant that people were left to suffer for years until the council finally decided to knock the estate down and replace it with a smaller one.
but sadly the inadequate amount of sound proofing material in these flats means that the torments people suffered with on the old estate continue to torment people on the new estate.
not all are able to put up with chair dragging and door slamming and the sounds of children running up and down etc.
and I wrongly believed that when the old estate was knocked down the council would make sure that as many of the flaws that made the old estate such a haven of torment for those that suffered on it would not be repeated but I was clearly wrong.
the impression I am left with after 45 years of living in the London Borough of Brent is that the local authorities don't seem to listen to the people despite appearances and they just do want they think is right and meets the basic needs of the people.
but they clearly need to do much better and sadly I don't think that will ever happen especially with the way things are going at present.
surely you can understand now why True Christians Put their faith and Trust in god rather than humans to provide for them even though of course in the mean time they have no choice but to make do with the inadequate conditions in this borough?
when the Prophet Jeremiah wrote that he well knew that to earthling man his way does not belong, it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his own step, by writing that he was acknowledging how even at that time in life
human rulers had failed miserably and independence from god had not lead to happiness and contentment.
for example if the government of now took into serious consideration the inspired words of the Christian apostle Paul to cleanse yourselves of all defilement of flesh would you not agree that human society would benefit as a result?
the £5 billion being spent treating people with health damaged from smoking could be spent on other things.
and the estimated 100,000 people that die every year from lung and Throat cancer would surely be greatly reduced.
and why?
well because the government would see the sense in putting principle before profit rather than profit before principle
because it is surely the desire for tax revenue which is why the governments decided to overlook principle and common sense and allow smoking to take a strong hold on the public.
and of what benefit has that been?
are 100,000 deaths per year beneficial?
when you are forced to spend £5 billion pounds every year treating people with damaged health caused from smoking does that not make it painfully obvious that the government are irresponsible and reckless as well as wicked and greedy?