Overhaul for council homes waiting lists

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Waiting lists for council homes in the Norwich area are set for a radical overhaul to give tenants more choice.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Waiting lists for council homes in the Norwich area are set for a radical overhaul to give tenants more choice.

A new choice-based lettings system covering Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk is due to begin at the end of the year and will scrap the current points-based system, where priority is given to those with the highest rating, in favour of new gold, silver and bronze bandings.

Supporters insist the new “Home Options” system, as it will be known, will speed up the housing process and give a wider choice of properties to rent in both the public and private sectors.

More than 12,000 people on the current waiting lists are this week being sent details of the proposed changes and given the chance to comment on them.

But there are fears that thousands of people looking for homes in rural areas could lose out - because fewer properties are available and the banding system was not sophisticated enough to cater for individual circumstances.

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Simon Woodbridge, leader of Broadland District Council, welcomed the changes.

“Home Options is a big change in the way people can access available housing,” he said. “It moves us away from the inevitable complexity of the current queuing system, which can make it seem unfair, and introduces a new system which offers people more choice. This will be fair and transparent, so people will know where they stand.”

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “It increases access to the range of housing options available so they can choose the best ways to meet their housing need.” But John Fuller, Conservative leader at South Norfolk Council, warned thousands of people would miss out under the new system. “About 75pc of people will end up in the bronze bracket and they will have very little hope at all,” he said. “At least with a points system they have a chance. In the city there is enough 'churn' that if you are in the lowest band you stand a reasonable chance of getting a house. But in rural areas there is much less supply.

“What we are not seeing is shades of grey,” he added. “If you have a guy who has split from his wife but has a 13-year-old daughter who he wants to stay at weekends, because he is on his own he will only be entitled to a one-bedroom house, which is no good to him. There are lots of questions still to be answered.”

South Norfolk Council leader Vivienne Clifford-Jackson said the current system was “crying out for reform”.