By Matthew Gooding
Thursday, October 4, 2012
POLITICAL leaders in North Herts approved a social housing overhaul last week which could spell the end for the practice of life-long council homes.
Last week North Herts District Council’s cabinet members approved guidance to the 23 social housing providers in the district, including North Herts Homes which manages the council’s former housing stock, to grant fixed term, renewable contracts to new tenants.
It advised providers to grant households with dependant children a tenancy of between five and 10 years, and those without dependants, five to seven years. Life-time tenancies should still be granted to those with long-term needs, including elderly and disabled people, while there should be a presumption of renewal for tenants, although not necessarily in the same property. The advice is not binding.
The changes are aimed at giving social housing providers more flexibility in how they allocate homes in line with government guidance on relaxing life-time tenancies in its Localism Act.
A central aim of government policy is to reduce the number of under-occupied social homes. Just over 3,000 people in North Herts are on the housing register, while a survey by the district council found that 57 per cent of the 10,000 social homes in the district are under-occupied.
Although the new guidance only applies to new tenants, Kevin Thomson, North Herts Homes chief exectuive, told The Crow earlier this month that the association would offer incentives to help tenants who are under-occupying move on.
Mr Thomson said: “The research showed that the majority of tenants who are under-occupying, tend to be older people whose family have moved on.
“These tenants may now struggle to manage large gardens and rooms but are not aware of what options they have, for example smaller homes, or apartments in our state of the art Flexicare schemes or refurbished Retirement Living schemes.
“The research also showed that one third of the tenants would ‘possibly’ be willing to down-size so we have invested £128,000 in a package of incentives that recognises the cost and disruption involved in down-sizing.”