Rethink on housing allocation policy as Fife has more applicants than homes

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With more than 15,500 applicants on the housing register, Fife Council has proposed a review of its housing allocations policy.

The Kingdom housing service is under pressure with more than 15,500 applicants across all sectors, and there is an imbalance between supply and demand.

In response, John Mills, head of housing services, has suggested undertaking a review of the allocation system and putting more emphasis on allowing Fifers to make choices about their housing. The policy was implemented almost two decades ago in 2006. Mr Mills believes it is time for an update.

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“The current pressures on the housing access system, coupled with the need to upgrade current IT systems, provides the environment for reviewing the policies and approaches to housing access,” he stated in a report.

Judy Hamilton,  spokesperson for housing and building services, said the task group will act like a policy advisory group  (Pic: Submitted)Judy Hamilton,  spokesperson for housing and building services, said the task group will act like a policy advisory group  (Pic: Submitted)
Judy Hamilton, spokesperson for housing and building services, said the task group will act like a policy advisory group (Pic: Submitted)

Allocation rules determine how applications for housing are prioritised. There are two primary approaches local authorities use to allocate their properties - needs-based or Choice-Based Lettings (CBL). The needs-based approach is the most frequently used in Scotland. Councils evaluate the needs of housing applicants then offer them a suitable property. The fundamental premise behind choice-based allocations is that the applicant themselves takes the initiative in securing a property.

“Landlords who use a choice-based approach tend to do so because they believe it offers greater choice for applicants and can help support tenancy sustainability,” a committee report explained.

As suggested, Cabinet Committee councillors unanimously agreed to create a cross-party task group tenant and resident engagement to review the council’s housing allocations policy on Thursday. Labour Councillor Judy Hamilton, the spokesperson for housing and building services, said the task group will act like a policy advisory group with a “clear focus” on looking at choice based allocations.

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Mr Mills explained that moving towards a choice based system would not eradicate a needs based approach to social housing. “We’re not suggesting that we replace the needs based system,” he said. “What we’re suggesting is that we look at a different way of allocating properties. It's a different way of allocating property that we’re talking about.”

The housing allocations review group will now be assembled and an options report brought back to the committee sometime in the autumn.