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Swale council proposes changes to housing register qualification

Swale council is proposing a shake-up of its housing register rules – including halving the time applicants need to have lived in the borough, and extending support to large families living on up to £60,000.

The plans have been put forward as part of a review of who is eligible for social housing.

Cllr Ben J Martin (Liberal Democrat)
Cllr Ben J Martin (Liberal Democrat)

As well as reducing the period a resident is expected to have lived in the area from four to two years, the council has suggested putting homeless households into a more urgent classification – band B as opposed to band C – to make it easier for them to be moved from temporary housing into permanent accommodation.

Another change could be to income thresholds. Currently applicants on a household income of up to £35,000 qualify - irrelevant of the size of the family. The proposed tapered approach would start at £30,000 for a one-bed home, going up to £60,000 for a four-bedroom house or bigger, which, the council says, is a more realistic income bracket for a single person or large family.

It says the proposed policy changes would allow it to use the housing it has in the most efficient way to look after the most vulnerable residents.

The authority will be holding a public consultation on the policy ideas next month.

The council’s housing allocation policy is being reviewed and councillors gave the green light for a public consultation at the authority’s virtual cabinet meeting earlier this month.

'We know how important it is for local people to have access to affordable housing for their families'

The policy aims to provide “a fair and transparent system that prioritises social housing by making efficient use of the homes available, promoting choice to applicants and developing sustainable mixed communities”.

Cllr Ben J Martin, cabinet member for housing at the council, said: “Local, affordable housing is a priority for us.

“We know how important it is for local people to have access to affordable housing for their families.

“The demand for housing has never been higher, and the housing allocation policy makes sure that we use the accommodation we have available efficiently, to provide homes to those who need them most.

“Providing a tapered income approach, a reduction in residential years required before application, and an increase in banding for those who are homeless, will help people qualify for social housing.

Swale council says sourcing more affordable housing is a top priority
Swale council says sourcing more affordable housing is a top priority

“We hope the proposed changes will improve the fairness and transparency of the policy while seeking to ensure those in the greatest need are prioritised.”

The reviewed policy will now go to a public consultation next month.

The council does not own social housing stock, but registered social landlords have 8,370 properties in the borough.

Currently Swale has a waiting lists of 1,318. Last year the average wait ranged from 11 months for a band A home - the most urgent bracket - to 30 months for a band C.

According to Pay Scale, the average salary in Sittingbourne is £23,000 and on Sheppey it is £21,000.

When asked if it had any idea how many extra households in Swale might qualify for housing under the new plans, a council spokesman said: “We have no way of predicting this.”

However, Cllr Ben J Martin said it was one of the council’s “top priorities” to increase the supply of affordable housing, adding: “It’s a case of pulling on as many strings as we can to make more affordable houses available.”

But what would the new rule mean for those who previously earned £35,000 and qualified for social housing, but now would not?

The council stressed they would not be evicted, but would no longer be able to gain new social housing.

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