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Dec 24 2011

Harrow brings report on Housing Changes to Cabinet

As part of its commitment to support residents through the many changes to housing, Harrow Council considered a report on the local implications last week.

Keen to provide as much help and support to the borough’s most vulnerable residents so they continue to have housing options and choices, the council has put together the report following months of consultation with the community, voluntary organisations and other housing providers.

The ‘Housing Changes’ consultation focussed on the many housing and welfare policy changes being introduced by government. The report sets out the ways the council could use new freedom and flexibilities to make sure affordable housing continues to help local people in housing need. Further work is proposed in terms of how these might be implemented in Harrow.

The report considers:

  • The introduction of the new flexible tenancies
  • Changing the Council’s Allocation policy to give priority to new groups such as those in low paid employment
  • The likely benefits following changes to the way the Council’s housing stock is funded
  • How best to help families move out of Harrow/London if they cannot afford the cost of local housing
  • The importance of plans for the borough that will encourage the development of additional housing for sale, private rent and social rent
  • The need to improve standards in some private rented housing

Portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Bob Currie said:

“The changes coming our way will have a massive impact on residents, the biggest in my forty years of campaigning on housing issues, so it was important that we got their views.

For the first time we will have to decide how long to make our tenancies and who should get priority when it comes to allocating our social housing. We are committed to making these decisions with the community.

We will also be faced with residents who simply cannot afford to live in Harrow after all of the Government welfare benefit caps are enforced. We are planning now with our residents, tenants and leaseholders so that we are able to continue to protect and support our most vulnerable into the future.”

What do Harrow tenants, leaseholders and residents think?

This is the first time Harrow has reviewed its whole range of housing strategies at the same time starting with conversations with local residents. The consultation included face-to-face feedback at housing roadshow days, email and survey information as well the production of an information booklet explaining all of the policy changes and potential implications for residentsOver 80% of those who responded agreed we need more affordable 59% accept that for some people a move out of Harrow is their best option – provided no-one is forced to move against their will

58% agreed it would be fair to introduce the Government’s fixed term tenancies if that means there would be more opportunities and no-one is forced to leave at the end of the tenancy if there is no other reasonable housing option

  • 90% said older people and those with disabilities should be offered longer term tenancies or tenancies for life
  • 26% felt priority for affordable housing should be given to people in low paid employment
  • 85% want the council to encourage higher standards in the private rented sector

Next steps:

Following approval by Cabinet, the Council will look in even greater detail at the following policy options:

Increase the supply of affordable housing, continue to tackle homelessness by improving access to the private rented sector, enhance housing options by promoting mobility and choice, improving neighbourhoods and existing homes and developing further supported housing.

The council will further consult with residents on the policy options, including the 200 people who took part in the initial housing consultation and expressed an interest in being further involved. There will also be web and email opportunities for other residents as well as meetings with key forums and voluntary groups.

Source: Harrow Council

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