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Government urge "local homes for local people"

The Government has announced that Councils will have greater flexibility in housing allocation policy. As with so many Government announcements it is not true. All the Government has done is to publicise the flexibility that already exists and urge Councils to do more to promote a "local homes for local people" policy. They want to tackle the "myth" that immigrants get preference. Of course housing is allocated on the basis of need rather than ethnicity or national origin. But in practice often it is new arrivals who are in the greatest need. So they could to the front of the queue ahead of those with less need but who have been waiting longer.

Certainly the BNP have attracted votes from those who have lost out and wished to register a protest at the system. In seeking to address this the Government are doubtless well intentioned. But the trouble is that these resentments are inherent in a system where the allocation is by queueing and scarce resources mean sitting in the queue for years on end. Its what you get when the state allocates housing to people.

The Government documents supposedly give guidance of the existing rules but simply confirms what a contradictory mess the whole thing is. On the one hand it gives the nod to Councils to adopt populist "local homes for local people" policies. But it says that before a Council changes its allocation policy it should carry out an Equalities Impact Assessment. It points out that the Equality Bill will impose. Inany case the document John Healey says he is "reaffirming the Government's priority to giving priority to those in the greatest housing need."

Where there does seem to be some flexibility, after a legal case involving Newham, is for Councils to give greater priority to one criteria of housing need rather than another. perhaps Councils could give "more weight to waiting times"... at least until the Equality Bill becomes law and there is some fresh legal challenge.

One interesting point is the guidance that behaviour can be taken into account. Greater priority for those who have been model tenants. Lower priority for those whose "bad behaviour was not serious enough to justify the applicant as ineligible, or to give him no preference for an allocation, but which could be taken into account in assessing the level of priority which was deserved relative to other applicants. An example could be minor rent arrears or low level anti social behaviour."


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