By Ewan Foskett
Thursday, September 13, 2012
THOUSANDS of people are languishing on a housing waiting list while more than half of social houses are under-occupied.
North Herts District Council is set to tackle the problem after a survey last year revealed 5,700 of its 10,000 properties are under-used, with 3,000 families waiting to move in to larger homes.
Andy Godman, the council’s head of housing and public protection, said: “Last year, a review of the under-occupation of social housing in North Herts was commissioned. The results confirmed that under-occupancy in the district is high, largely due to children growing up and leaving family-sized homes in which parents continue to live for long periods.
“The council is no longer a landlord, however it has proposed a new tenancy strategy for social landlords which looks at offering greater flexibility in terms of the length of tenancies offered. Rather than lifetime ‘assured tenancies’, shorter fixed terms of five-10 years would be an option.
“Clearly this will not change the situation overnight, and for those who currently have assured tenancies we do not have any power to propose changing existing arrangements.
“Our draft strategy also proposes that social landlords continue to offer assured tenancies to some groups, including people with disabilities.”
The authority is working on a tenancy strategy that will provide the district’s housing associations with guidelines when granting tenancies.
In 2003 the council transferred its housing stock to North Herts Homes – a not-for-profit housing association providing quality homes across eight local authority areas.
Kevin Thompson, chief executive at North Hertfordshire Homes said: “NHDC’s 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 £128k in a package of incentives that recognises the cost and disruption involved in down-sizing.
“From Monday, September 17, our dedicated under-occupancy officer will be sensitively working with tenants who feel it is the right time to downsize.”