Residents have a say on social housing criteria

Pic: Geograph

Tower Hamlets residents will be given a say in how social housing is allocated after new council decision.

The council’s plans could include limiting the number of bids a person can make for properties advertised, introducing a maximum income threshold and penalties for people who continuously bid for properties and refuse them.

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “Changing the criteria for our housing list and the way people bid for properties will ensure that we support people into housing more quickly, while reducing unnecessary costs.”

However, Tower Hamlets Law Centre reported that people without a permanent home can expect to spend “many years in temporary accommodation while bidding for a permanent home.”

Overcrowding was identified as the borough’s ‘most urgent housing problem’ by the council in 2010 – both in social and private rented housing.

The problem is stated to be on a scale “not seen since the 1930s”, largely due to new communities and the lack of construction of new council homes in the 80s and 90s.

Defend Council Housing, a tenant led campaign against privatisation of council housing, wrote in their publication: “Council housing has served many well. It is worth defending for today and for future generations.

“It is designed to meet decent standards – though tenants have to fight to ensure those standards are kept, and repairs and improvements done.”

The housing allocation scheme is one of a number of changes brought in by the Localism Act, which became law last year, and which shifts the power from central government back into the hands of communities.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities said:  “The Localism Act pulls down the Whitehall barricades so it will no longer call the shots over communities – bug bears like housing targets and bin taxes are gone.

“For too long, local people were held back and ignored because Whitehall thought it knew best. That is changing for good. Councils have their General Power of Competence and residents have a real power over decisions like council tax, town hall pay, planning, community buildings or local services.”

Steven Mutton from Tower Hamlets Homes, told EastLondonLines about the improvements that social housing in the borough has seen in the past years.

Mutton said: “We’ve received half a million pounds from the government to start an enormous programme that will enable us to deliver a much better service now.”

The Localism bill included eight key issues on housing such as:

  • Giving local authorities the power to limit who can apply for social housing within their areas
  • Abolition of the requirement to have a Home Information Pack
  • Providing for a new form of flexible tenure for social housing tenants
  • Allowing local authorities to discharge their duties to homeless people by using private rented accommodation
  • Amend the way in which a social tenant can make a complaint about their landlord
  • Improve the ability of social tenants to move to different areas.

A series of workshops with housing applicants and staff members will be organised before the consultation deadline of November 23.

The housing allocation survey can be found here.

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