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25 September 2012, 12:28 | Updated: 25 September 2012, 12:30
Changes to the eligibility criteria to determine applications to join Peterborough's Housing Register have been agreed by the City Council - to ensure priority is given to people who need housing the most as well as hard working families and serving Armed Forces personnel.
The proposed amendments would have a "high regard" for people who can demonstrate a strong local connection to Peterborough and those who are working or are training for work. People who are making a community contribution and working to make the city a good place to live, work and play are also given preference.
Applicants who are homeless, threatened with being homeless or living in unsatisfactory housing conditions, people who need to move for social/welfare reasons, and those who failure to assist in moving will cause particular hardship are prioritised in the proposals. In addition, it is proposed that applications will only be accepted from those who have a connection with Peterborough (see notes to editors).
The Housing Register eligibility criteria was discussed and agreed upon by the city council's Cabinet at its' meeting yesterday (25th September).
Councillor Peter Hiller, Cabinet Member for Housing, Neighbourhoods and Planning, told Heart: "This review of our Housing Register eligibility criteria is greatly needed, not only to ensure that those who need housing the most are catered for, but also to ensure that we recognise and reward people who are making a difference in their community and trying to better themselves. I am also pleased to announced that our proposals give members of our Armed Forces preferential treatment.
The Localism Act 2011 gave local councils the power to set their own Housing Register qualifying criteria. Our proposals make full use of these powers and allow us to restrict entry to the Housing Register to those who are most in need or making a difference in their community".
Councillor Hiller added: "We have seen a sharp rise in the numbers joining the Housing Register in recent years and have found that some of the people applying can afford suitable accommodation elsewhere. Excluding these groups of people from applying will mean that we can help those who are desperately in need of housing."
Currently the city council operates an open-house register in partnership with ten registered social landlords. The register is open to all who wish to apply as long as they are 16 or over, have the right to live in the UK and have not been found guilty of previous unacceptable behaviour which would make them an unsuitable tenant. This has meant that the numbers joining the list have continued to increase.
There are around 9,328 people on the waiting list for the housing register (those looking for alternative accommodation) - and in the 12 months up to April this year, PCC allocated 1,258 properties to people or families - yet 2678 NEW applications for accommodation was received by the council.
The amended register proposes excluding applications from those who own suitable accommodation or those who can afford alternative options. People who have previously behaved in an unacceptable way which would make them an unsuitable tenant will continue to be excluded from the register.
The amended register will also be brought in line with the new Housing Benefit bedroom standards policy which proposes reducing Housing Benefit for those who are deemed to be living in a home which is larger than they require and refuse to downsize. As a result, families will only be placed in homes which are suitable for the number of people in the family.
Now that the Cabinet has approved the proposed amendments, a 12-week public consultation period is now underway.
THE NEW GUIDELINES:-
* An existing connection with Peterborough
* Having lived in the area for six out of the last 12 months (or 3 years out of the last 6 years).
* People who are working in Peterborough
* People who are moving into the city for special reasons (e.g. to receive specialist medical care).