Tenants with room to spare could be forced to move

First published in News

NEW rules designed to ease a shortage of social housing could ultimately see single people forced to leave their homes if they have too many spare bedrooms.

New regulations stemming from the Government’s localism agenda mean that from January many new tenants will have far less security than people currently housed by the council.

The regulations mean that the five year tenancies will not be renewed in cases where there is anti social behaviour, where household income is over £60,000, where a significant adaptation to the home is no longer required or most controversially, where under-occupation of a property exists by at least two bedrooms.

This could see some people being forced to leave their family homes – freeing up the properties for families that the homes were originally built for.

Test Valley councillors, who were looking at the proposed strategic tenancy policy at a cabinet meeting, say that it is a significant problem across the borough.

Stockbridge councillor Peter Boulton said: “Under-occupation is an issue in the community I represent there are 19.

“It might be a difficult nettle to grasp but it does need grasping.

“These buildings need to be freed up.”

Statistics seem to bear out his view as the number of households on the council’s housing waiting list has increased by 28 per cent over the last 13 years from 1,873 in 1997 to 2,619 in 2010.

Underoccupation is also more of an issue in the Test Valley than in the rest of the country with 83 per cent of homes having at least one spare bedroom.

The home shortage is despite significant building of social housing which has continued in Test Valley in the teeth of the recession.

Councillor Sandra Hawke told the meeting that progress here has continued to be ‘excellent’ despite the slump.

She said: “Since 2009 in Test Valley we have completed 446 affordable homes of which 49 have been rural.”

RESIDENTS can have their say on proposed changes to the social housing system.

Changes to the law will affect who can apply for social housing, how people are prioritised and the benefits system as a whole.

This follows the introduction of the Localism Act 2011, Armed Forces Regulations 2012 and the impending Welfare Reform Act 2012.

Hampshire Home Choice (HHC) is managed by Test Valley Borough Council, East Hampshire District Council, Havant Borough Council and Winchester City Council and advertises all social housing in the four council areas.

It is inviting members of the public to get involved by completing an online survey, which will help inform changes to the HHC allocations policy.

Survey questions include should there be a maximum total income and savings threshold for individuals, couples and families to be allowed on the housing register and who if anyone should be given priority for social housing.

The deadline to complete the survey is November 30. To take part log on to http://www.testvalley.gov.uk/aboutyourcouncil/consultation-portal/ or call 01264 368614 for a paper copy.

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