THOUSANDS of applicants for limited affordable housing in the county face a full re-assessment of their needs under a tough new “local connection” policy introduced over the summer, Herefordshire Council has confirmed today (Thurs).
New applications will only be re-assessed under the policy due in June. By then, some applicants could have their home bids ruled out completely, leaving private rental as the only realistic option.
The council has adopted approaches allowed under the 2011 Localism Act to develop a determination of housing priorities that have a demonstrated “local connection” amongst its key criteria.
In a statement, the council says that a recognised shortage of affordable homes in the county needs new criteria to” better reflect” circumstances .
Those new criteria also tighten financial qualification limits so only applicants assessed as unable to resource their own housing can register.
Home Point, the agency that manages the register, will continue to advertise available properties on behalf of housing associations.
Letters are now going out to applicants currently registered with Home Point setting a six week deadline for the completion of new application forms and, where requested, the submission of supporting evidence.
Each applicant will then be reassessed on their updated application and if eligible, re-banded under the new system.
All applicants need to reply within the set timescale to retain their waiting time. If they don’t reply, they will be removed from the register completely.
The council has already warned that some applicants will be re-assessed as not meeting the new criteria. They would, instead be “offered advice” on alternative housing options, such as the private rented sector.
However, all applicants are still able to bid for properties under the current allocations policy until mid-May.
Last year, the Hereford Times revealed that most of the then near 5,000 then on the county’s housing register had “no hope” of being housed.
A report prepared for the council’s overview and scrutiny committee said present housing policy meant a lot of administrative time was being wasted on such cases.
The alternative, the report said, was a policy shift that helped applicants choose other options to the Home Point housing register.
Such a policy, the report said, could cut the list by as much as a half. But the number of requests from households needing homes was rising.
The county is recognised as having the worst housing affordability ratio – with house prices around 8.6 times annual earnings – in the West Midlands region.
There is a high demand for affordable properties countywide and especially in Hereford city with an average of 64 bids per property.
Figures for February last year - when the issue was first raised at overview and scrutiny - showed the register as topping 4,896 against an average in 2011/12 of 16 properties available per week. That 4,896 including 205 priority cases.
The committee set up a special task group to examine housing allocation policy. The resulting report for cabinet concluded that a significant number of applicants on the Home Point register had no hope of being housed.
The scale of the problem Meant changes to the allocation policy could only make a marginal difference for the better as opposed to offering a solution.