|No Excuses – Council's New Housing Policy Gets Tough on ASB and Rent Arrears
If you cannot behave, you cannot have a council home.
That’s the stark message from Wigan Council and Wigan and Leigh Housing as they review their social housing allocations policy.
The council's cabinet member with responsibility for housing, Cllr Chris Ready, explains: “The vast majority of our tenants are excellent people. But we’re getting tough with those who are selfish and irresponsible and make life a misery for others through their anti-social behaviour. I want to see fairness and common sense in the process and we need to hear from you about what you think of the proposals.”
Previously there were strict rules in place that governed what type of behaviour might lead to someone being excluded from council housing. However, new powers introduced as part of the Localism Bill allow councils to decide who they can 'disqualify' for a housing allocation.
The council’s head of housing, Peter Layland, says: “We can now consider getting tougher with people who cause problems on our estates. The proposals mean people previously involved in anti-social behaviour (ASB) would not be accepted onto the Housing Register until they could demonstrate that their behaviour had improved.”
The council last revised its Housing Allocations Policy in January 2011. Changes then were praised by housing applicants who found the new system clearer, fairer and more transparent.
The policy introduced a tougher stance for those responsible for ASB. Wigan and Leigh Housing worked closely with the council and the police on this initiative. As a result, 144 people have been excluded from the Housing Register over the past 12 months. This compares to 28 in 2009/10.
Since the 2011 review the government has given councils more freedom in shaping their local allocation policies and so Wigan Council is looking at further changes in a review that was led by councillors and tenants.
The main changes being considered within the consultation are:
- People found guilty of anti-social behaviour, failing to pay their rent or paying for damaging their rented being excluded from being rehoused.
- Priority homeless people will not be automatically placed at the top of the housing list. They will continue to be helped to find housing but could this could be in the private rented sector.
- Those who do not have a local connection or have only recently moved into the borough will be given low priority on the Housing Register.
- Anyone who refuses three reasonable offers will have their application suspended.
The consultation is being widened and the council is inviting anyone who has a view to have their say.
Cllr Ready says that the latest proposals continue a programme of improvements for tenants. He adds: “I’m well aware of a selfish minority who cause nuisance for the vast majority of our tenants. It’s reasonable to ask why we should automatically rehouse who act in this way. The changes suggested also send a very clear message to those who owe us for rent arrears or for damaging our properties. That message is – pay what you owe or forget about being rehoused.”
A strong positive which has emerged from the review is a clear restatement of the priority policy towards former members of the armed forces.
Cllr Ready says: “I am pleased to see that the proposed Housing Allocations Policy continues to support our ex-servicemen and women. Wigan Council was one of the first in the country to give veterans top priority for re-housing and we are delighted to see that this policy will continue.”
- Tenants and residents can see full details of the proposed changes and find out how to put their view forwards by visiting the Wigan and Leigh Housing Property Shop website: propertyshop.walh.co.uk
- Property Shops are located at 4 - 6 Market Street, Leigh, and at The Life Centre in Wigan Town Centre.
Once the consultation is complete, comments and the proposals will be presented to Cabinet after Christmas.