New measures will ensure local people are prioritised for homes and introduce greater transparency on who is getting a council house, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced.
New proposed statutory guidance for councils published today (14 October 2013) makes clear that only people with a well-established local residency or connection to an area can go on that council’s waiting list for social housing. It will help avoid confusion in local government about equality laws that could lead to some councils sidelining local residents.
Along with giving priority to local people, the guidance makes clear that councils are required to make an exception to members of the Armed Forces who apply for housing. Due to the nature of their work, travelling from base to base, they do not build up a local connection.
As a result of lax immigration controls in the past, 1 in 6 of all existing social housing tenants in London are now foreigners, and across England, 1 in 10 of all new social housing tenants are foreign nationals. The widespread perception that local people lose out to those who have little connection to the local area has undermined community cohesion and is a factor fuelling unsustainable immigration.
To reinforce the guidance and ensure people have confidence that housing is allocated fairly, councils are asked to make data on the nationality and other characteristics of social tenants readily available to local people. This delivers on a campaign by MPs Nicholas Soames and Frank Field calling for greater honesty on housing statistics.
Eric 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 decisive package of government reforms to tackle unsustainable immigration.
The guidance ensures councils require people to have lived in the area for at least 2 years. Only those who pass this test will be accepted onto the waiting list in their local area - and then be considered for social housing.
The government has put protections in place through secondary legislation that ensure members of the Armed Forces families are not disqualified from social housing through a local connection or a residency test.
Proposed guidance on recording social lettings was also published today in the document Provisions of Social Lettings Data: Advice to Local Authorities. This document sets out the importance of providing good quality data on the characteristics of tenants taking up social housing through the department’s Continuous Recording system, and provides some advice to local authorities to help them in achieving this. This data is reported back to government.