Reforms to the Housing System
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The Localism Act gives local authorities greater freedom to set their own policies about who should qualify to go on the waiting list for social housing in their area. Under the previous system social landlords were normally only able to grant lifetime tenancies.
The Government has protected the security and rights of existing social housing tenants, including when they move to another social rented home. However, provisions in the Localism Act allow for more flexible arrangements for people entering social housing in the future.
Social landlords are now able to grant tenancies for a fixed length of time. The minimum length tenancy will be two years in exceptional circumstances, with five years or more being the norm. There is no upper limit on the length of tenancy, and lifetime tenancies can still be offered.
The Localism Act required us to prepare and publish a Tenancy Strategy setting out the matters to which social landlords operating in our area are to have regard for when formulating policies relating to:
- The kinds of tenancies they grant
- The circumstances in which they will grant a tenancy of a particular kind
- Where they grant tenancies for a term certain, the lengths of the terms
- The circumstances in which they will grant a further tenancy on the coming to an end of an existing tenancy.
Amendments to s146 and s147 of the Housing Act 1996
At this stage we are giving consideration to the options for amending our statutory allocations scheme, and discussing these with other housing authority representatives within the Home Choice Plus Partnership.
Reform of Homelessness Legislation
People who experience a homelessness crisis need somewhere suitable to live. Local authorities have a duty to house people who are eligible, in priority need and unintentionally homeless.
Under the previous rules, people who became homeless were able to refuse offers of accommodation in the private rented sector.
The Localism Act now lets local authorities meet their homelessness duty by securing a suitable offer of accommodation in the private sector. Guidance has been issued governing what can be regarded as suitable.
National Home Swap Scheme
There are lots of reasons why people move house; to take up a new job, to be nearer to family members who need care, to give a young family more space to grow or to find a smaller, more manageable home in later life.
The Localism Act paves the way for a national home swap scheme. This will enable people who would like to swap their social home to access details of all other tenants who may be a suitable match. For more details visit the HomeSwap Direct website (opens in new window)
Reform of Social Housing Regulation
The Localism Act provides social tenants with stronger tools to hold their landlords to account.
Social landlords are now expected to support tenant panels, or similar bodies, in order to give tenants the opportunity to carefully examine the services being offered.
The Localism Act also abolishes the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) and transfers its remaining functions to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). The Localism Act also changes the way that complaints about social landlords are handled.
Currently, there are two separate ombudsmen (the Local Government Ombudsman and the Independent Housing Ombudsman) handling social tenants' complaints about their landlord.
In the future, a single watchdog (the Independent Housing Ombudsman) specialising in complaints about social housing will ensure greater consistency across the sector. This has been launched in April 2013.