Share your views on new housing allocations policy
Pressure on social housing in Wokingham borough has never been greater and we need to ensure local families and individuals in the most urgent need still get a roof over their heads.
We want to hear your views on our draft housing allocations policy, which determines how places are given out and must be updated because of changes in the law and an unprecedented increase in demand.
Over the past year or so, the number of households on the council’s housing register shot up from 1,681 to 2,086.
This is largely down to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, along with a shift towards people working at home and rising costs across the rental sector as more would-be tenants chase fewer available properties.
At the same time, the number of affordable homes being built in the borough has been affected by staff and material shortages, again due to the pandemic.
We’re proposing a fifth priority band so we can understand people’s needs more clearly and help the most urgent cases first.
Band 5 applicants could include owner occupiers, people in a stronger financial position or former tenants evicted for rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.
Everyone would have to prove that they, or a member of their household, have lived in the borough for at least five years running and still do now. This is standard practice among many councils and ensures people with long-standing local roots get the support they need.
We’d make some exceptions, like periods of rough sleeping, to ensure everyone is treated fairly and people moving from outside in special circumstances, such as those fleeing violence or crime, could still be considered.
In the past, we’ve had problems with applicants refusing suitable homes without a really good reason so we propose taking them off the housing register if they turn their first offer down. This ensures we make best use of increasingly limited resources.
You’ll still be able to express a preference for certain areas and we’ll do all we can to meet this, especially if there’s a strong reason, and asking for a home in one area won’t hurt your chances of being offered housing somewhere else.
We’ll also give more priority to the armed forces community, who may not be required to show a local connection, and will set aside at least 10 per cent of properties for households in permanent employment for at least 16 hours a week.
Additionally, to tackle the unprecedented cost of placing applicants in emergency lodgings like B&Bs, we’ll give higher priority to anyone who agrees not to accept temporary accommodation.
We’re taking your comments until 15 November. To respond, visit www.wokingham.gov.uk and search for ‘consultations’
For help completing the consultation, or to obtain a paper copy, please phone our offices on 0118 974 6000.