Sheffield Council housing waiting list in line for overhaul

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ALL 84,500 people on Sheffield Council’s housing waiting list face having to reapply for a home – and must provide two references.

People who move will also be banned from reapplying for another property for two years, while priority categories will be streamlined from 23 at present to just seven under plans to revamp the housing allocation system.

Sheffield Council is modernising the system in a bid to save £220,000 a year and gain an ‘accurate’ picture of how many people are actually in need of a home.

The change will cost £140,000 to implement, but long-term savings are forecast to come from cuts to administration costs and extra rent from less people moving around.

Each time a person moves house, it leads to a property standing empty for several weeks and costs due to repairs or modifications required before new tenants move in.

Just 18,500 people are actively making bids on properties – but the waiting list is one of the longest in the country.

Under the new system, people will have to reapply and must also renew their place on the list once a year.

Coun Harry Harpham, council deputy leader and member for housing, said: “The council decided in 2010 to review its lettings policy to ensure homes were allocated in the most efficient way to meet local housing needs.

“We want to make sure the right people are rehoused in the right homes. Applicants will be required to produce two references.

“There will also be changes to criteria, so the number of priorities are simplified and we will expand the number of people eligible for priority because they want to downsize.

“Currently, it is people in a three-bedroom home, but we will include those in two-bedroom houses, to help cope with the ‘bedroom tax’ cut to housing benefits for people with spare bedrooms.”

Coun Harpham said the new policy – set to be approved at a council cabinet meeting next week – will be reviewed after a year to see how it is working.

Richard Palmer, council head of housing commissioning, said: “People already on the waiting list will be able to retain the amount of time they have built up on it, which helps their priority for homes, but they will be asked to re-register annually.”

The council admits it does not know how many on the current waiting list are actually in need of a home – or even if some have since died.

The new policy is due to be launched from April 2014, although the expanded priority for people downsizing due to the ‘bedroom tax’ will start from next month.

Mr Palmer said eligibility for being on the waiting list would be tightened, so people evicted for anti-social behaviour would not be allowed to re-register.

The current 23 priorities for housing will be streamlined into health, welfare/hardship/support, demolition, homelessness, foster carers or adoptive parents, under-occupation and release from prison or care.