Headlines: December 7th, 2009

Councils are to get more freedom to manage their housing waiting lists but they have been challenged to do more to dispel myths about waiting lists. The Housing Minister, John Healey, wants people to have confidence that the system is fair.

He has published new statutory guidance making it clear that the people in greatest housing need must be given priority but giving councils more flexibility to allocate their homes according to needs specific to their local areas. Local authorities have said they will use the extra freedom to give priority to families with local connections or to people seeking local employment and to tackle overcrowding and under-occupation.

Examples cited by Mr. Healey include Manchester, where the City Council plans to give priority to those who are working, volunteering or taking up training and educational opportunities, and the London Borough of Newham, which wants to use revised allocation policies to tackle overcrowding.

The new guidance also places on councils a responsibility to tackle misunderstanding surrounding allocations. They will be expected to consult local people on changes to their allocation policies and to make people aware of who is getting housing by ensuring allocation policies are better understood and have greater local legitimacy. John Healey said: “People must be given confidence that council homes in their area are allocated fairly. Councils must make sure people can see more clearly how homes are being allocated in their area.”