Councillor Johnson introduced
the report and stated he was pleased to see this report coming to
Cabinet as this was the first overhaul of the scheme in 5 years,
and had been agreed after extensive consultation with residents and
the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He felt the report was
Thurrock-centric and based on the needs of residents which had been
identified following consultation. He stated that Band 5 of the
Housing Waiting List was now being removed as these were people who
had little priority for housing need, but they would be added to
the Sheltered Housing Register. He stated this was an appropriate
way to manage demand and ensure that those with the greatest
housing need received priority. He also felt it would give
residents a clearer picture on how the Housing Waiting List
operated. He moved on to discuss how currently Band 5 constituted
30% of the housing list, and of that figure 70% of those had not
bid within 12 months. He then discussed how members of opposing
parties had called this change “social cleansing” and
felt this was inappropriate language. He called for those Members
that had used this language to formally apologise.
Councillor Johnson also mentioned how the local connection criterion was being increased from 5 years to 6 years to ensure those residents with the greatest connection to the borough could have the highest priority. He then stated that the percentage of properties set aside for working households or community contributions was being increased from 15% to 20%. He explained that the family criterion was also being narrowed to only include parents, siblings, children, and those that had acquired parental responsibility for the applicant. He explained that the housing list was being amended so its local connection criteria could allow key workers, such as those working in Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital to join the Housing Waiting List. Councillor Johnson finally described how the Housing Waiting List would be reviewed on an annual basis to consider the number of inactive applicants. He finished by stating this report put Thurrock in a strong positon as it helped residents with the highest needs and allowed the Housing Waiting List to actively reflect the numbers of people applying.
Councillor Halden thanked Councillor Johnson for his support with the revised keyworker scheme, as the existing scheme had not been as successful as he would have liked, but hoped that the benefit of keyworker housing laid out in the report might help. The Leader then stated that other local authorities were also taking a similar approach by removing Band 5 from the Housing Waiting List, but stated that if people’s circumstances changed, their priority banding could change. He felt it was good to see that those with the highest need were being prioritised, but raised concern with the review of inactive applications after one year. He felt that people may have a particular housing need, such as number of bedrooms or location due to employment, and may not apply as nothing suitable had become available. He felt this policy should be considered by the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee as they could look in-depth into reasons for the annual review, and might be able to instigate criteria so people’s personal reasons for not applying could be considered. The Leader also raised concern with the financial qualification change, as the level of savings people had to have to qualify was not outlined in the report and he felt this was important. He elaborated that the methodology for calculating income and savings had not been outlined in the report either and felt this needed to be clear. He stated that current or previous members of the armed forces should have their service taken into account when the financial qualification was considered.
The Leader also raised concern with the change to the maximum net income criteria as he felt lots of people would fall into the middle of this, as they may not earn enough to meet the one third salary requirements of private renting, but may earn too much to qualify for council housing. He stated an additional recommendation would be added for Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the concerns raised, and particularly make sure the financial qualification criteria was realistic.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
1.1 Agreed the proposals set out in the following sections of the report:
3.1.7 – Local Connection – Proposed Changes
3.3.4 – Banding and Lists – Proposed Changes
2.4.6 – Key Workers and Working Households – Proposed Changes
3.5.12 – Applications, Bidding and Offers – Proposed Changes
1.2 Agreed for Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review the financial qualification outlined in 3.2.3 and report back to Cabinet with findings regarding the changes to the financial qualification criteria.