Headlines: October 6th, 2006



Five years after the first pilots were set up to move the letting of social housing from a producer-driven function to a consumer-led service, independent research has found that that the new way of working is successful. Traditionally, tenants were allocated a property which the social landlord deemed ‘suitable’ and they were then faced with the stark choice of whether to accept or reject the offer.

The Choice Based Letting schemes allow people to apply for advertised social housing vacancies, often in the local press or through an inter-active website. Applicants can see the full range of available properties and apply for any home to which they are matched. The successful applicant is the person with the highest priority for the property which they have bid for.

Researchers from the Heriot Watt University and the British Market Research Bureau found that allowing tenants to choose properties resulted in a 10% reduction in the proportion of tenancies terminated within twelve months. This also reflected the effectiveness of the process in better matching people to properties and improving satisfaction with letting outcomes. Initial concerns that choice may result in a concentration of certain types of households in particular areas proved to be groundless.

Although set-up costs can be substantial, particularly in relation to developing an IT system, this can be off-set by increased housing management efficiencies particularly through increased tenancy sustainability and the reduction of re-lets. Additionally set-up costs borne by individual landlords may be reduced where they are shared with others in a ‘consortium scheme’.

The study shows that participation in CBL schemes is growing, with more than a quarter of local authority landlords operating the schemes by 2005. This comfortably meets the take up target. DCLG statistics support this showing that by April 2006 more than 80 per cent of councils had implemented, or had plans to implement, choice based lettings.