England: New project to examine how social housing is allocated

Terrie Alafat

A new project to explore how social housing is being allocated across England is being launched by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

Rethinking allocations aims to analyse what housing associations and councils are doing now – and why – and stimulate debate about how things could be improved.

Social housing providers are being invited to take part in an online survey to share their experiences which opens today and closes on November 23.

Rethinking allocations is the next stage of CIH’s successful Rethinking social housing project, which saw more than 3,000 people have their say on the future of social housing via workshops, an online survey and public polling. The report demonstrated that while there is wide support for a much broader range of people to be able to live in social housing, in practice the shortage of genuinely affordable housing for rent means that some form of allocation system will remain necessary.

It also highlighted serious issues with the sector’s ability to support people on very low incomes. Housing professionals who took part said the shortage of homes for social rent is affecting their ability to help people in housing need. According to research from Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 70% of councils across England find it difficult to help people access social housing to prevent or relieve homelessness.

CIH chief executive, Terrie Alafat CBE, said: “Housing professionals and tenants who took part in Rethinking social housing raised concerns that practices such as affordability checks and tenancy sustainment initiatives could effectively screen out or exclude people considered most in need. Where are these people supposed to go?

“Throughout this new Rethinking allocations project, we will be looking at the different criteria used in allocation policies by councils and housing associations across England, the extent to which they’re being shaped by government policy, and the impact this is having on who is accessing and living in social rented housing. By understanding better what is happening now, and the reasons behind that, we’re aiming to open a debate about how things could be improved – and how we can get to a place where social housing is allocated in a way that allows it to play a central role in balanced, vibrant communities.”

South Liverpool Homes has sponsored the initiative and helped shape the project, alongside an advisory panel of sector experts.

South Liverpool Homes chief executive, Julie Fadden, said: “We need to think differently about how we give social housing tenants real choice, as in our experience the current systems do not work.”

CIH will be using the data from the survey to develop a series of workshops to explore the findings in more detail. Head of policy Melanie Rees and policy and practice officer Faye Greaves will be hosting a Twitter debate for people to have their say on the project on Thursday 8 November from 12.30pm to 1.30pm using #rethinkingallocations.

Councils and housing associations can take part in the online survey here.

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