Social tenants who need to move to a new area for work will no longer be pushed to the back of the housing waiting list under new proposals being drawn up for town halls.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles today (10 September 2014) announced a consultation on how town halls can ensure all existing tenants will have a guaranteed ‘Right to Move’.
It means existing council or housing association tenants who land a new job in a different part of the country will not have to sacrifice their home for work.
Currently social tenants who need to relocate to take up a job or training sometimes find it hard to secure a new social tenancy in a different local authority area as they will often be competing for housing with applicants classed as having a higher need.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
We want to do all we can to support hard working social tenants to achieve their aspirations and seize what can often be a life-changing opportunity.
In the past tenants may have felt trapped in their existing accommodation when they needed to move to take up a job. We want to make sure that people who have a social tenancy but need to relocate to a new community because of work or training will no longer find themselves back at square one – at the back of the housing waiting list in a new authority area.
Tenants who want to work hard and get on should be supported in this goal not penalised because of it. Councils will have to work together to make sure tenants across the country will not have to make the choice between employment and housing.
Help for tenants moving for work
Since 2011, councils have had a range of powers and flexibilities to ensure they make the best possible use of their housing stock.
Today, the Department for Communities and Local Government consultation will seek views on the introduction of new rules that would ensure local residency requirements do not prevent social tenants from moving into the area to take up work or training opportunities.
Social tenants relocating for work will be given greater priority, either by creating a new ‘reasonable preference’ category – used by councils to prioritise people for social housing – or through strengthened statutory guidance to ensure local authorities apply the existing ‘hardship’ reasonable preference category to include people moving for work or training.
Further proposed new statutory guidance will also ensure that every council in England would have to set aside a small proportion of lets for tenants who need to move because of work or training.
Authorities would be required to provide at least 1% of their existing stock under the Right to Move scheme although they would be free to offer more.
Any town hall that decides to offer less will need to explain to voters why.
On top of this, ministers will later this year launch a new fund to help a number of councils to trial new and innovative ways of helping people looking to move for work in their area.
In particular, the measures could be used for people already in existing social housing, who face a long wait to get the help they need to move.
The Localism Act gave councils the power to set their own rules on who qualifies for social housing in their area. In December 2013, the government issued statutory guidance, ‘providing social housing for local people’ to encourage local authorities to use their new qualification flexibilities to apply a residency test for social housing. It also referred to the government’s intention to introduce a Right to Move for social tenants seeking to move to take up a job or be closer to work. In the meantime it made clear authorities were expected to support tenants who wanted to move across authority boundaries for work-related reasons.
The 6 week consultation seeks views to formally incorporate this expectation within Right to Move through regulations. It will also seek views on how local authorities and social landlords are using the flexibilities they already have to support tenants who want to move within and across council boundaries. It sets out plans to support local authorities to test out new approaches to provide for greater mobility to reward working tenants or those in training.
In 2012 to 2013 only 46% of social renters of working age were in employment, compared to 87% of owner occupiers and 74% of private renters.
Alongside the Right to Move, Eric Pickles also set out plans to support councils to test out new approaches to provide for greater mobility to reward working tenants and those who are otherwise making a positive contribution to their community. The funding scheme will be launched later in the year.