Changes to Home Choice Plus scheme - Guidance and FAQs

Due to the changes to the Home Choice Plus allocation scheme we need to collect some additional information from you to update your application and to review your banding.

You will receive a personalised letter detailing the changes and what we need from you.

Your banding may change because of the new policy. But please note that we will only write to you again if your banding has changed.
 
The changes to the scheme include the introduction of a reduced priority banding; changes to the way we assess overcrowding and disrepair, and how your banding is assessed if you are homeless across all the Home Choice Plus partnership areas.
 
Please fully complete the form and return it within 21 days of the receipt of your letter.

A pre-paid envelope will be enclosed. Please note if your form is not returned your application will be cancelled.
 
If you would like more information on the changes to the Home Choice Plus scheme or if you have any queries please contact the Housing Options Team at Festival House, Grovewood Road, Malvern, WR14 1GD, telephone number 01684 579579.

Alternatively, please visit the Home Choice Plus website.

The policy changes will take effect from the 1st April 2013.

Frequently asked questions about changes to Home Choice Plus from 1st of  April 2013

The Allocations Policy has been amended, with a new Reduced Banding being introduced, along with the following changes:

Disrepair

Applicants who live in properties with Category 1 and Category 2 Hazards, with the exception of crowding and space, will be placed into the Gold or Silver Bands, depending on their local connection, and those living in properties which are subject to enforcement notices will be placed into Gold Plus and Silver Plus bands, depending on their local connection.

Overcrowded households

Who are lacking 1 or 2 bedrooms will be placed in Gold or Silver band, depending on their local connection. Applicants who lack 3 or more bedrooms will be placed in Gold Plus or Silver Plus, depending on their local connection.

Homeless households

Will now receive a higher banding in districts where they have a local connection.

When is it changing?

We will be writing to all applicants on Home Choice Plus (over 24,000 people in total) during February 2013, asking them to complete and return a form which asks additional questions to the form they completed when they first applied.

This new information will help us to assess whether they are still in the correct banding.

During March, we will be processing all the new information from the forms we receive and any changes to bandings will take effect from 1st of April 2013.

If your banding changes as a result of the new policy, we will write to you and let you know, but due to the large numbers of applicants on the register, we will not write to you again if there are no changes to your banding after 1st of April, so if we do not contact you, please assume that your banding is remaining the same.

Will it cost me anything to return the form to you?

No. We will be sending all applicants pre-paid envelopes which you can return your completed forms in. You do not need to add any stamps to these envelopes so it will not cost you anything to return.

What happens if I don't return my form in time?

The letter you are sent with the form will tell you what date you must return your form by.

You will be given plenty of time to complete and return the information, but please make sure you return it as soon as possible.

If you do not return your form on time, your application will be closed.

You may re-apply to Home Choice Plus in the future, but your waiting time will be taken from the date of your new application unless there is an exceptional reason why your response was delayed.

Please also make sure that you complete all sections of the form fully, as we will be unable to process incomplete forms.

Will you write to me to tell me what my new banding is?

If, as a result of the new policy, your banding changes, this will take effect from 1st  April 2013 and we will write to you to explain what this means.

However, due to the large numbers of applicants on the register, we will not write to you again if there are no changes to your banding after 1st of April, so if we do not contact you, please assume that your banding is remaining the same.

What happens if I disagree with my new banding?

You can request a review of your banding if you disagree with the reasons for being awarded it.

You must request a review within 21 days of your banding notification (when you receive the letter telling you what your banding is) and we will conduct a review and notify you of our decision with 56 days.

What does Reduced Priority mean?

This means that households who would otherwise be in a higher banding due to their circumstances will be placed in a lower, reduced priority banding, either because they have sufficient financial resources to meet their housing needs in the private sector, or because they have housing related debt; previous tenancy breaches; have refused a number of suitable offers of accommodation or consistently not placed appropriate bids even after advice from housing officers; or have deliberately worsened their circumstances.

Applicants would be banded according to their current housing need, but demoted to the reduced priority band.

What level of financial resources would place an applicant in the Reduced Preference Band?

Applicants who have a household income (including benefits) of more than £60,000 per year, or savings / capital / assets / equity of £50,000 or more will be placed in the Reduced Priority band.

This is because this level of financial resources is considered sufficient to enable them to access and maintain private accommodation.

In the new Reduced Priority band, what does ‘deliberately worsening circumstances' mean?

This means that an applicant has deliberately done something or failed to do something to worsen their circumstances in order to qualify for a higher banding on Home Choice Plus.

This could include (but is not limited to) the following examples:
 

  • Moving into an unsuitable property – for example too small / unaffordable / not adapted for their needs and being aware that it was unsuitable when they moved in. 
  • Moving in with others or moving others into their home and becoming overcrowded, when a more suitable alternative existed. 
  • Causing disrepair to their property, including not allowing access to their landlord to make repairs. 
  • Giving up a tenancy which was suitable for their housing needs.

In the new Reduced Priority band, what does ‘Anti social behaviour or other tenancy breaches' mean?

This means breaches of a tenancy where legal action was commenced, e.g. an injunction, ASBO, CRIMBO or Notice.

In the new Reduced Priority band, what does ‘Housing Related Debt' mean?

This means households who owe money to a housing association or local authority for costs relating to their housing – this can include rent arrears or other debt, for example rent deposit debt, recharges for damage etc.

Households will be placed in the Reduced Priority band where their debt is either £500 or more, or they owe the equivalent of 6 weeks' rent.

In order to be reinstated to a higher banding, a household's debt must reduce below this amount and they must also have demonstrated a regular re-payment history (of at least 3 months).

How many offers of accommodation can I refuse before I am placed in the Reduced Priority band?

Where applicants in the Gold Plus, Gold, Silver Plus and Silver bands have consistently failed to place suitable bids or have refused a number of suitable properties without good reason, their banding will be reviewed and they may be placed in the Reduced Priority band.

As is the case now, homeless applicants in the Priority band who refuse one suitable offer will no longer be owed a housing duty by the local authority and will have their banding reduced.

How long are people placed in the Reduced Priority band for?

Applicants who are placed in the Reduced Priority band will be reviewed after 6 months and as a result may continue in the band, or their banding may be increased if the reason they were placed in the Reduced Priority band no longer applies.

An applicant can also request a review of their Reduced Priority banding at any time.

More Questions?

If you would like more information on the changes to the Home Choice Plus scheme or if you have any queries please contact the Housing Options Team at Festival House, Grovewood Road, Malvern, WR14 1GD, telephone number 01684 579579.
 
Alternatively, please visit the Home Choice Plus website.