December 6 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The new measures, brought in by Tendring District Council (TDC) six months ago, stipulate that people need to have been living in the district for at least three years at the time they apply for social housing to qualify for help.
Councillors say the requirement, brought in to deter people travelling to the area in search of hand-outs, has seen the number of people on TDC’s housing needs register fall from 3,500 to 2,000.
Paul Honeywood, cabinet member for housing, benefits, revenues and sports facilities, said the feedback on the move has so far been positive.
“We very much believe in local homes for local people and we had the courage to back that with a change in our housing allocations policy earlier this year,” he said.
“TDC wants to ensure that its housing stock is allocated to those who live locally and are established Tendring residents, and the move has proved popular.” Mr Honeywood said the authority also gives extra priority to those households in employment and those seeking to foster or adopt children, as well as current or former members of the Armed Forces.
It is unclear where the people come from whose names were removed from Tendring’s list, although it is believed many were from the London area. Council leader Peter Halliday said there was also a trend of people putting their name on the list remotely from locations outside Tendring with no real hope of being offered a property from the council’s portfolio of 3,000 homes.
He said: “By removing a third of people off the list we have a much more realistic idea of the number of people who are in need of help with housing. Yes, there is still a shortage – it’s a historic situation that has been that way for many years – but we are building more council homes in places like Brightlingsea and Walton.”
Mr Halliday added that the council had recently put in place other policies aimed at prioritising the needs of local people, such as a stipulation that people must have lived in the district for more than five years to qualify for council tax discounts.
The comments came in the week that communities secretary Eric Pickles announced that measures being introduced will make clear that only those with a well-established local residency or connection to an area can go on a council’s waiting list for social housing.
The guidance means councils across the country will require people to have lived in the area for at least two years before they can go on the list.
Mr Pickles said: “This government is standing up for hard-working people. Local residents and the Armed Forces should be first in line for social housing. This is part of a decisive package of government reforms to tackle unsustainable immigration.”