Council house shake-up to give locals priority over newcomers

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CHANGES are being made to council housing policy in a Yorkshire town - meaning that people will have had to live there for at least three months before being eligible for social housing.

Doncaster Council said that its new policy will give “people with Doncaster links a better chance of getting a home.”

A spokesman said that the new system will “limit council house tenancies to people who have lived or worked in the borough for the previous three years, or who have a close relative living locally.”

They added: “However, there will be exceptions for members of the armed forces within five years of discharge and some homeless applicants.

“The new rules will also prevent anyone from joining the housing register if they own a property.

“People with a record of rent arrears or anti-social behaviour may no longer be accepted onto the housing register, although each case will be assessed.”

The changes, have come about as a result of the Localism Act - the cornerstone of David Cameron’s Big Society agenda.

Designed to give towns, villages and neighbourhoods a whole range of new powers over their local area, the legislation was put before Parliament within months of the coalition coming to power.

Doncaster Council said yesterday that the aim of the changes is to “shorten the list and make sure that social housing goes to the people who need it most.”

Coun Glyn Jones, deputy mayor and cabinet member for housing, said: “The new, shorter housing register will enable us to help more Doncaster families and individuals to improve their lives by moving into suitable homes.

“We want to ensure that the policy is fair and has the ability to help local people who want to stay in Doncaster.

“It will also help us to tackle and update our waiting list and ensure homes are offered to people that meet their needs.”

Under the new policy in Doncaster, “high priority” will be given to people who have recently left the armed forces, foster families who need extra bedrooms and people living in overcrowded homes.

Changes to council housing allocations are also being made by other authorities across the region.

A spokesman for Kirklees Council said that, while the housing register is open so anyone can apply, there are plans to introduce a new lowest-ranked band for those who will have least priority.

The new band will include those with a history of anti-social behaviour, housing debt, no local connection or those who already own their own homes.

A spokesman for Hull Council said: “Hull will continue to operate an open housing list, but because we give additional points for local connection, the vast majority of people with a local connection to Hull will have a higher priority for housing than those without.”

Leeds City Council will also be implementing a new lettings policy from the end of the month.

A spokesman said: “In response to the feedback from our consultation with 1,500 individuals, will maintain an open housing waiting list.

“This means people who do not have a local connection to the city can still apply for rehousing.

“However, only people in the statutory housing needs groups – including homeless people and those who need to move due to overcrowding or medical needs - who can demonstrate a local connection to Leeds will be given a priority.”

Steve Rawson, Wakefield and District Housing’s (WDH) managing director of operations said: “Recently we made significant changes to our policy. Last November we began providing additional priority to people leaving the armed forces, and we are assisting WDH tenants affected by the ‘spare room subsidy’.”

He added that a further review was underway.

In North Yorkshire, meanwhile, a new policy is set to be adopted in the coming weeks by housing organisation HomeChoice.