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**Update** -  The Cumbria Choice Changing ways consultation is now closed thank you for your feedback.

CUMBRIA CHOICE: CHANGING THE WAY THEY ALLOCATE SOCIAL HOUSING HOMES IN CUMBRIA:

PLEASE LET US KNOW YOUR VIEWS!

Impact  are  a  partner in Cumbria Choice along with most of the other housing association and all the district councils in the county. 

The partnership is reviewing the ‘Cumbria Choice’ Housing Allocation Policy, which is the way the social housing homes available in Cumbria are allocated. This is an extensive revision of the Policy with quite a number of changes.

The ‘Allocation Policy’ is very important because it sets out who is, and who is not, eligible to join the ‘Housing Register’. It also covers:

How customers can apply for social housing
How their housing needs will be assessed
The priority they will be given for any housing need and
How the partnership will decide who will be offered a vacant home.

Cumbria Choice and Impact really want to hear what you think and we have summarised the main points and main changes of the policy below. A full copy of the policy is also attached and we have added a link to a short survey to gain your views.

This is the formal consultation exercise that ends on Thursday 21st May.

The key objectives for the policy review are:

To continue to support local people most in need of housing in Cumbria
To simplify the Policy so that it is easier for customers to use, is transparent, and is accepted by customers as a fair way to allocate social housing when it is often in short supply.
To ensure the Policy contributes towards creating mixed and sustainable communities where people of different backgrounds and socio economic groups live side by side including the need to the problem in some areas where there is not as high a demand for social housing as there is in other parts of Cumbria.

1) We want to reduce the number of Bands from 5 to 3

The Cumbria Choice Partnership has received regular feedback from users and stakeholders that the allocation policy is too complicated and confusing. One of the main concerns expressed is that customers do not understand why there needs to be 5

The proposed solution is to move to a simple 3-band system with the time a person joined the register determining their place in the queue for the band they have been allocated.

Band A will be for the most urgent housing need cases that need to move quickly.

Band B will be everyone else that the legislation states has a statutory housing need.

Band C will be everyone else.

2) We intend to keep an ‘Open Register’

Many local authorities restrict their Housing Registers so that only customers who are assessed as having what is called by the allocations legislation ‘a statutory housing need’ can join the register

We intend to continue to operate an open register in Cumbria. Everyone will still be able to register regardless of whether they meet the definition for a statutory housing need.

3) We are adding to, and amending the qualification rules for when a customer is able to join the Housing Register

The current policy has a number of qualification rules that decide whether an applicant will be allowed to join the Housing Register in Cumbria. We are amending some of the rules regarding when a customer can qualify to be included on the Housing Register, and in addition creating  rules for when a customer can qualify for Band C but not for the higher needs Bands A and B. We want to know what you think of each of these qualification rules. They are set out in the table below with an explanation for what we are trying to achieve.

Qualification rule 1 – Local Connection

It is proposed that the Policy will restrict access to the high housing need Bands A and B to customers who can evidence a local connection with Cumbria.

Therefore to qualify for Bands A or B the customer must have a local connection with Cumbria. This could be set as:

Living in Cumbria for the last year, or 3 years in the last 5
Having close family living in Cumbria
Working in Cumbria as long as this isn’t casual work.

If the customer doesn't meet one of the above they can still register but will be placed in band C

Qualification rule 2: The requirement to give permission to obtain and share an applicant’s personal information

Unless the customer gives permission to enable enquires to be made to assess their application and circumstances, they will not be able to qualify for the housing register. This is to combat possible fraudulent applications. 

Qualification rule 3: Homeownership or legal interest in home ownership

If the customer owns their home they will either a) not be able to qualify to be included on the register, or b) will not be able to qualify for Bands A or B but would still be allowed to be placed into Band C. We would like your views on this rule and if you support it which should it be a) or b)?  

Qualification rule 4: Financial resources

If the customer earns above a set net income or has savings above a set threshold they will either not be able to qualify for the register or will not be able to qualify for Bands A or B but would still be allowed to be placed in Band C despite their income or savings.

We would like your views on which option should be included and if you support income or savings thresholds what these should be? 

Qualification rule 5: Failure to Bid

Many customers once they register don't bid for the properties advertised. We think that if someone hasn't made one bid in 12 months that they should be removed from the register. This will cut down on the time and costs in administering the housing register. This rule would not stop a customer from reapplying at a later date.

Qualification rule 6: Fraud or giving False Information

If someone has lied or withheld information in an attempt to get social housing we think they should not be able to register, or if they are already registered and we discover they have led or withheld information they will be removed from the register. This would be serious cases of lies or withholding information that were intended to obtain social housing by deceit.

Qualification rule 7: Circumstances where an applicant has current or former social housing rent arrears or another relevant recoverable housing related debt

This rule in the current policy is being amended to help customers who have former social housing rent arrears or housing related debt to be able to obtain social housing.

For customers with serious rent arrears it will continue to be the case that they cannot qualify for the housing register until they have reduced the debt to a level we agree is reasonable.

However, for customers who owe less that £1000 they will be able to qualify and be banded for their assessed housing need but they will not be offered a property until they have resolved the debt to a level we think is reasonable in the circumstances.

Qualification rule 8: Serious unacceptable behaviour

This rule in the current policy is being amended to encourage customers to tackle any unacceptable behavior issues, or ASB issues before they will be able to be considered for an offer of social housing.

For customers with a history of serious unacceptable behavior that has not been resolved when they apply to join the housing register it will continue to be the case that they cannot qualify for the register until they have resolved the problem to the satisfaction of Cumbria Choice. That is not a change from the current policy.

However, it is proposed that customers presenting with more minor issues that are assessed as needing to be resolved will be allowed to qualify and will be banded for their assessed housing need. However, they will not be offered a property until they have resolved their behavior to a level that will give us confidence that they will be good tenants in the future.

There will be clear criteria for what they have to do to resolve their behavior and they will continue to ‘move up the queue for their band’ so they have not ‘lost out’ whilst they resolve the problem.

Qualification rule 9: CCP Tenants not assessed as Band A or Band B Housing Need

Existing Housing Association and Barrow Council tenants who have a housing need will be able to join the Housing Register.

However, there is a problem in existing tenants who do not have a housing need wishing to transfer to another social housing property. Each transfer costs the social housing landlord thousands of pounds in costs to re-let the property.

We think that tenants who do not have a housing need should still be able to seek a transfer through the Mutual Exchange Scheme but not through the housing register.

Let us know your views and complete the attached survey:- https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SJCSMR3