The Allocation of Social Housing
Legal Provisions for the Allocation of Social Housing
Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended) governs the allocation of social housing stock in England.
Statutory Guidance is been issued to local housing authorities in England under s.169 of the Housing Act 1996 (‘the 1996 Act’). Housing authorities are required to have regard to it in exercising their functions under Part 6 of the 1996 Act.
What is an Allocation
For the purposes of Part 6, a housing authority allocates accommodation when it:
• selects a person to be a secure or introductory tenant of accommodation held by that authority
• nominates a person to be a secure or introductory tenant of accommodation held by another housing authority
• nominates a person to be an assured tenant of accommodation held by a Private Registered Provider (or Registered Social Landlord in Wales) (s.159(2))
The London Borough of Bexley is not a stock holding authority and therefore nominates persons to become tenants of registered providers in its borough where is has an agreement with that provider to do so.
It is a legal requirement of the Housing Act 1996 as amended that local housing authorities must consider all applications made in accordance with the procedural requirements of the authority’s allocation scheme. The full allocations scheme can be found under ‘Important Information’ above. When considering applications, authorities must ascertain:
• if an applicant is eligible for an allocation of accommodation, and
• if he or she qualifies for an allocation of accommodation
Authorities must ensure that when allocating they only allocate to “eligible persons” as defined in section 160ZA of the 1996 Act.3 They must also only allocate to “qualifying persons”. Subject to the centrally determined eligibility criteria and any regulations made by the Secretary of State, authorities are free to decide what classes of person are and are not “qualifying persons” for the purposes of their allocation schemes.
An allocation scheme must be framed to ensure that certain categories of people are given 'reasonable preference' for social housing which is set out in the allocations scheme which can be found under ‘Important Information’ above.
Allocation schemes can allow for authorities to take account of additional factors when determining priority for housing between applicants in the reasonable (or additional) preference categories such as financial resources, behavior and local connection. Local authorities in England must have regard to their homelessness strategies, tenancy strategies and the London housing strategy (where appropriate), when preparing or modifying their housing allocation schemes.
In order to determine eligibility and qualification for an allocation of accommodation the London Borough of Bexley needs to collect personal data from applicants and any household members included as part of their application.
This information includes:
Proof of identity
Information about your current home and household
Medical details, (where these are a relevant part of any consideration in relation to priority for housing and type of housing to be allocated)
Details of any anti-social behaviour, rent arrears or evictions
Brief Summary of Scheme
The basis of the Council’s scheme is a priority system based on need. In order to achieve this, a definition of priority has been broken down into various categories of need and these are then grouped into one of four bands, with band 1 being the highest priority and band 4 the lowest.
It may be the case that applicants have more than one category of need. In these circumstances they will be placed in the category which is in the highest priority band.
The allocations policy will look to provide choice to applicants through the operation of a choice based lettings approach, referred to as Bexley HomeChoice. This operates by the Council advertising the availability of properties to let. Applicants who have been approved in one of the priority groups will then be invited to register an interest in a property by bidding through Bexley HomeChoice. Once the bidding period is over then a shortlist of applicants will be drawn up. The shortlist will be produced by placing the applications in priority band order and then those with the same priority band will be placed in order according to their priority in the band; this is usually, but not always, date order from the date of approval in that priority band.
The final decision to award a tenancy will be made by the social housing provider. In making this decision it is expected this will normally go to the applicant who is in the highest priority band, according to date, however other factors can be taken into account in making the offer.
There are also occasions where the council will make direct offers to applicants rather than advertising on Bexley HomeChoice. This option will be used for applicants who are assessed as being homeless, those assessed as having a social need and other exceptional cases.
The council will also look to give priority to certain categories of need where it is considered that this is necessary in order to achieve broader council priorities. This can be through a local lettings plan for new build properties and on an individual case by case basis.
The scheme gives additional priority to homeless clients making a community contribution and those in emergency accommodation.