A robust policy framework setting out how the borough’s social and affordable rented housing is allocated to residents has been adopted by Cabinet (Wednesday 13 July) following public consultation.
Social housing offered by Registered Housing Providers gives residents an affordable home in local communities, granting stability to individuals and families.
While St Helens Borough Council is no longer directly a landlord, it has a responsibility to co-ordinate the allocation of social housing in the borough.
With over 8,000 applicants currently registered for re-housing, the council must set a framework that can meet the needs of residents who are in urgent circumstances and who require affordable accommodation.
In St Helens Borough, social rented housing is allocated through the Under One Roof scheme, where applicants are categorised into bands based on their needs criteria – for example those at risk of homelessness are given higher priority than applicants seeking to move for social reasons. Once applicants become a Member of Under One Roof, they can then enter up to three expressions of interest – known as ‘bids’ – every week to secure a social home of their preference.
Residents, partners and stakeholders were consulted on the draft policy, how the system works and who is prioritised, with over 800 responses received and general support for:
- Maintaining a ‘choice based’ allocations system
- The groups of residents that the Allocations Policy proposes to award additional preference to, specifically with the highest support for applicants who are homeless due to a disaster and applicants who need to move due to significant medical needs
- The Allocations Policy to consider both the willingness to repay any housing related debts and the reasons for debts arising as part of the policy position on this issue
- Demoting residents in the higher bands who are not actively bidding or refusing reasonable property offers
- A desire to receive more information on the bidding process, support for residents who require it to bid and more information on the membership of Under One Roof
Feedback from the consultation has helped to strengthen the policy in key areas, including:
- The threshold of housing related debts which might block an application has been extended from one to two-months’ rent arrears, and there was consultation support for greater understanding of how such debts have been incurred.
- The inclusion new build properties in local lettings policies, creating stronger and more inclusive communities
Councillor Jeanie Bell, Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, said:
“Everyone needs a safe and stable home, providing space for people to grow roots that form stronger communities, the opportunities for employment, the chance for children to flourish in education; the foundations we all need to get on in life.
“Because of this, it’s vital that we provide housing options for everyone, including those whose needs are not being met by the wider housing market. This updated policy will guide decisions on priority for rehousing, making the process more transparent, fairer for all and help the council and our Registered Provider partners to make the best use of the homes available, to the benefit of the residents who need accommodation in our communities.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our residents, partners and all respondents to the consultation, for helping to make this policy the best that it can be for our communities.”
To view the policy, visit https://sthelens.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s133485/Appendix%202.pdf and to learn more about Under One Roof visit www.u-1-r.co.uk/.