1 STATEMENT OF INTENT
1.1 Raven Housing Trust, in its role as a registered provider (“RP”) aims to ensure that all subsidised rented housing stock is used effectively to meet the housing needs and aspirations of applicants and tenants and to contribute to the building of sustainable communities. Raven will seek to prevent homelessness wherever possible and practicable.
1.2 This Allocations Policy is an overarching policy. Detailed procedures set out how this policy will be applied. Our primary aim is to provide affordable and well managed rented accommodation to those in housing need. Raven aim to create sustainable tenancies in light of Welfare Reform and Universal Credit having regard to the affordability of a property for the applicant, while giving reasonable preference to those most in need of them.
1.3 Raven are a member of the national ‘Homeswapper’ scheme. Therefore, the option of moving home through a Mutual Exchange will be actively promoted to transferring residents wishing to move as a way of being able to more quickly access a different home.
1.4 By use of this Policy, Raven will:
1.4.1 Make best use of its stock.
1.4.2 In accordance with its Policy on ASB, consider the need for community cohesion when allocating applicants to voids properties.
1.4.3 Improve demand for our properties.
1.4.4 Create sustainable tenancies in light of Welfare Reform.
2.1 This policy operates using all relevant and appropriate legislation. This includes, but is not limited to the Housing Acts 1985 and 1988 (as amended), the Landlord and Tenant Acts 1985 and 1987, Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended) and The Localism Act 2011. This includes future legislation that may be introduced.
3.1 Raven will work flexibly with local authorities, in a manner that is sensitive to local issues and demand, to assist them in offering accommodation to people with priority on the authority’s register and in fulfilling their statutory duty to secure accommodation for homeless people.
3.2 Raven will participate in appropriate joint Housing Registers and choice based lettings schemes.
3.3 Raven will treat all housing applicants in line with our Equality and Diversity policy. Our aim is to let property in a fair and non-discriminatory way and to avoid restrictions on access to housing, which are irrelevant to housing, affordability or support needs.
3.4 Raven will seek to enter into Nomination Agreements where reasonable and appropriate with the local councils in whose areas we operate, whereby the councils will be able to nominate applicants from their housing lists to an agreed proportion of our vacant properties.
3.5 Wherever possible, Raven will seek to assist local authorities to achieve their Community objectives under ‘Local decisions: a fairer future for social housing’ (November 2010) and the Localism Act 2011 by giving priority for social housing to those in greatest housing need and by providing appropriate housing for applicants with additional support needs, for instance temporary and sheltered accommodation.
3.6 Where Raven has the ability under local arrangements, Raven will give consideration to the use of part of our entitlement to offer nomination rights to local specialist organisations who provide a service.
4 SUSTAINABILITY – SPECIFIC LETTINGS INITIATIVES
4.1 Local lettings Plans
In some instances, Raven may implement local lettings plans or ‘sensitive lettings’ for some properties, schemes or neighbourhoods. These are exceptional to the normal policy and are introduced to meet specific scheme or neighbourhood objectives. Raven will consult with local authorities and any other appropriate agencies within the community regarding local lettings plans where possible. Information about local lettings plans for specific schemes will be provided to applicants.
4.2 In negotiating local lettings plans, we will aim to strike a balance between housing need and making the best use of housing stock in that area to benefit individuals, the community and create sustainable neighbourhoods.
5 EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY
5.1 We will accept applications from any person over the age of 16 years regardless of the nine protected characteristics in the Equalities Act 2010 of age, disability, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. At all stages in the application and allocation process we will comply with the law and our equality and diversity policies. All applications and allocations will be monitored to ensure compliance with equal opportunities and diversity.
5.2 Applicants under the age of 18 may be required to sign an ‘equitable tenancy’ and will generally be required to have a rent guarantor. In consultation with other Raven staff, exceptions may be agreed in exceptional circumstances and recorded as ‘Exception to Policy’.
5.3 Our Allocations policy will be available in an easy to understand format, in braille, and audio tape. It may be provided in other languages, as requested.
5.4 Raven will monitor the ethnic origin, gender and disability of all applicants and tenants we house to check that different groups have equal access and treatment in the lettings process.
6 HOUSING NEED
6.1 Raven will continue to meet housing need through Choice-Based Lettings schemes operated by partner local authorities and through these, aims to give a reasonable preference to people in housing need as set out in the Housing Act 1996.
6.2 Allocations through Choice-Based lettings may be supplemented by other initiatives In line with agreed nomination agreements in order to meet specific needs either for particular client groups, or a particular area.
6.3 Who do Raven House:
- Existing tenants who need to move to enable repairs or improvements to be carried out in their home (“decants”).
- New applicants referred by local authorities
- Existing tenants who need to transfer to another property (“transfers”)
- Existing tenants who need to move under Raven’s Under Occupation scheme which helps residents to move to a new home which better meets their household circumstances and minimises the effect of the Welfare Reform Act.
- Existing tenants currently living in supported housing who have been allocated a permanent home and who have demonstrated that they no longer need support to manage their tenancy (“move on”).
- New applicants referred by other Social Landlords. From time to time we may enter into schemes outside of local authority nomination schemes which assist tenants to move to a property offered by different social landlords, if they need to move to a different area. We will normally only accept suitable applicants from other social landlords whose housing need would be given the same high priority on our own lists. We may also agree reciprocal arrangements with other social landlords.
- New applicants referred by agencies. If we have a ‘hard to let’ property we may use referral agencies to identify someone in housing need. This method is only used when no other applicants are available.
- Other applications. The policy is not designed to create additional tenancies on demand for existing households, for example in the case of relationship breakdown, or for tenants’ children who should be housed through the appropriate local authority Housing or Transfer Register.
- Raven will accept applications directly and will maintain small direct waiting lists (DWL) of groups of applicants who need housing in areas where we have properties and who are in housing need, and may or may not be registered on local authorities’ Housing Registers. Raven will consider the use of a direct let in the following circumstances:
- Vacancies for schemes with specific admission criteria which make them unlikely to be filled via the Housing Register.
- Vacancies with little or no demand from a Housing Register.
- Vacancies that have not been filled on a timely basis through our Nominations Agreement with the relevant local authority and via the Housing Register route and remain unallocated to for longer than three weeks.
- Application acceptance criteria will be the same as used for local authority nominations and will be prioritised according to the priority order agreed for each particular group. Applicants housed in this way may be:
- People who meet Raven’s Allocations eligibility criteria, but who may be unable to effectively access social housing in another way.
- People affected by Welfare Reform.
- People wishing to move to downsize to a smaller property
- In addition, from time-to-time, there will be a need for a household to move outside of the normal allocation processes to provide a flexible solution to a problem due to a crisis / emergency or because Raven requires a move for a specific reason. Such transfers are referred to as management moves.
- Raven is required to cooperate with the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) with regard to the assessment and management of risks created by certain offenders. As a housing provider this cooperation is likely to involve carrying out an assessment and making a decision regarding nominations for housing under the MAPPA protocol.
- Raven also from time-to-time will provide some ‘key-worker’ properties to people who have important jobs in the community, but who may otherwise find it hard to access private rented accommodation. This may be an exception to a local authority’s policies and procedures and will be allocated out of Raven’s nomination % for that council area. Raven intends that the charge for such properties is less than market rents, and generally this is calculated as 80% of market rent.
- Local connections will not generally be considered, unless it is relevant to the allocation of a property for which a local connection is required.
7. ASSESSMENT OF HOUSING NEED
7.1 An applicant’s need for alternative accommodation will be risk assessed on the basis of the information contained in the application they have made, and additional information provided both at application and nomination stage. It is a breach of our tenancy agreements and conditions for an applicant to knowingly or recklessly make a false statement that induces us to enter into a tenancy agreement and repossession will be sought for any tenancy gained as a result.
7.2 Application forms for the local authorities’ housing registers, which include transfers, are generally available through the website and office of the relevant local authority. Application forms for Raven’s small Direct List for are available from the Housing Choice team on request.
7.3 All nominees’ details will be verified on application and at nomination stage by the local authorities and Raven to check accuracy, assess need, suitability, and affordability and support needs.
7.4 A sample of allocations and decisions made will be regularly reviewed to ensure that decisions are objective, accurate, and consistent and ensure fairness.
7.5 Raven will carry out an independent risk assessment at nomination stage of nominees’ financial circumstances to assess the affordability of the property for the household. Applicants will be advised in writing of their nomination to a Raven property.
7.6 Raven will ensure that applicants are offered a size of property that is considered suitable for their household and which is considered financially sustainable according to the criteria set out in section 8 of this policy.
7.7 In the event that an applicant is also an employee, Board member or a close relative of either, Raven will have regard to the Housing Accommodation provisions outlined in its Probity Policy. This includes those employees and Board Members who resigned or otherwise left the employment or engagement with Raven for a period of one year prior to any proposed allocation of property. Employee applications will only be considered through the relevant Housing Register. Such nominations to be specifically approved by a Director of Raven.
7.8 Applicants have the right to view personal information held by Raven in accordance with the Data Protection Act, by making a subject access request. A small administrative fee may be charged to cover Raven’s costs for this.
7.9 EXCLUSIONS FROM OFFERS OF ACCOMODATION
7.9.1 The Welfare Reform Act 2011 sets out in law fundamental changes to the welfare system aimed at reducing dependency on welfare. Therefore, when assessing nominations and direct applications, Raven will risk assess residents’ ability to pay their rent and service charge and maintain a tenancy. Nominations and applications will be refused if the property is deemed unaffordable or unsustainable.
7.9.2 If there is clear evidence (usually documentary) that within the last 3 years due to circumstances which the applicant could reasonably have prevented, there have been either previous tenancy or mortgage breaches, or an applicant has lost previous accommodation due to breaches. Regardless of a previous tenancy history, Temporary Accommodation applicants will be expected to have demonstrated a subsequent ability to sustain their tenancy.
7.9.3 If the household has access to funds or has disposed of an asset that would render their application ineligible for the type of housing they have applied for.
7.9.4 Where a serious safeguarding concern can be evidenced that would create a significant risk to other residents in the area. For example, supported by the relevant enforcement agencies.
7.9.5 In accordance with its Policy on ASB, Raven will consider the need for community cohesion when allocating applicants to void properties.
7.9.6 Raven will be unable to house applicants or nominees who are subject to immigration control within the meaning of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996, as amended by the Localism Act 2011, and are therefore be ineligible to join any part of a Housing Register.
7.9.7 Other specific exclusions will apply for example, where accommodation is specifically adapted and the applicant does not require the adaptations, or where provision of specialist support is required, which is unable to be provided.
8. ALLOCATION OF VACANT PROPERTY
8.1 When a property becomes available for letting, Raven will, at an early stage, seek a potential occupant. This could include local authority nomination, direct applications or allocations made through other appropriate sources.
8.2 All applicants will be expected to view the property before deciding whether to accept. If accepted, applicants will be expected to attend a pre-tenancy workshop, exceptions to be agreed on a case-by-case basis. Applicants will be required to sign up and move into their new home immediately it is ready to let and pay one week’s full rent in advance at sign up as their rent is due weekly, in advance.
8.3 The size of property that will normally be allocated is as follows:
Accommodation Likely to be Offered
Bed-sit or studio / one bedroom flat, bungalow or house / maisonette
Applicant and partner
One bedroom flat / bungalow / house / maisonette
Applicant (and partner, if applicable) and one child **
Two bedroom flat / house / bungalow / maisonette
Applicant (and partner, if applicable) and more than one child **
A flat, house, maisonette or bungalow that meets the following criteria:
One bedroom for the applicant and partner (if applicable);
And one bedroom for each child or family member, except where there are:
(i) 2 children of the same sex under the age of 18 or
(ii) 2 children of opposite sex under the age of 10 shall be permitted to share a bedroom
** The child’s/children’s main and principal home is that of the applicant’s or nominees. A dependent child is classed as being under the age of 18 or in full time secondary education.
*** Where a household consists of two adults over the age of 18 and who are not deemed to be applicant and partner, i.e. two siblings; Raven will require the tenancy to be in joint names.
**** The above standards apply to all Raven General Needs accommodation only.
8.4 In certain circumstances Raven will consider requests from applicants who wish to bid for properties which are smaller than the standards set out above. An example may be where a family living in cramped conditions are happy to move to a larger property, even if it does not meet their accommodation needs under Raven’s bedroom standards.
8.5 In exceptional circumstances, where Raven are satisfied that there are no resulting benefit implications, a property may be let as “under-occupied”.
9.1 If applicants or nominees are unhappy about the operation of this policy, they should first raise their concerns as a pre-appeal. Details of the procedure and who to contact will be provided to applicants on request.
9.2 If an applicant or nominee remains unhappy about the operation of this policy, they may appeal to the Head of Housing Management.
11 CONSULTATION AND REVIEW
11.1 This policy will be regularly reviewed by the Board with recognised tenants’ groups, and in conjunction with relevant stakeholders to ensure that we are contributing to meeting housing need. We will seek applicants’ views on the lettings process and use this information to improve our procedures. We report to our Board, Local Authorities, the Housing Regulator and tenants on the number of empty properties we have, the time it takes us to let them and which groups of people we let them to.
11.2 A copy of this policy will be available to the public.