Saturday, 14 January 2017

Housing in East Devon >>> Where have all our housing waiting list applicants gone?

If you are looking for a council house, you need to register here:

There is a lot of information on housing available on the District Council's website:

Plus detailed policies on housing:

The District Council have provided more information under FOI requests:

The District Council currently (January 2014) 'manages' 4,300 social housing properties:
East Devon District Council - Housing
but has a very long waiting list:
East Devon District Council - Devon Home Choice scheme

The District Council is not very happy about central government's policies:

A proposal to sell off expensive social housing has had a mixed reception...
including from East Devon:

Report author Alex Morton said: "Expensive social housing is costly, unpopular and unfair. That is why almost everybody rejects it. Social housing tenants deserve a roof over their heads but not one better than most people can afford, particularly as expensive social housing means less social housing and so longer waiting lists for most people in need."

But councils in the Westcountry, struggling with long housing waiting lists, dismissed the idea. Conservative councillor Jill Elson, East Devon District Council's cabinet member for sustainable homes and communities, said: "The Government and its policy advisors should concentrate their efforts on finding realistic ways of delivering more affordable housing rather than these theoretical policy distractions that could only make a marginal difference in some very high-value areas."

Unfortunately, it is more complicated - with the District Council changing its criteria:

Waiting list cut from over 3 years to less than 1 year

In 2011, EDDC said that:

As at 17 January 2011 there are 2,800 people on the council’s housing register. There are currently 45 empty council owned properties in total. About a third of these are “long term voids” which are being re-developed, have serious structural problems or have suffered fire/flood damage.
Affordable Housing - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

Many councils have cut their waiting lists by simply deciding that certain people will no longer qualify for social housing – e.g. people under 25. Where have all our housing waiting list applicants gone? Certainly not into affordable homes.

EDDC Tories promise more ….. of what exactly? | East Devon Watch

In other words, the figures are unreliable:

"Housing to meet social need is based on Local Authority waiting lists which are notoriously inaccurate. Many people on these lists are in rented accommodation which does not meet decency standards – if such accommodation had by law to meet decency standards, many would not be on waiting lists. Also, many people may be on several lists at the same time or may not be in genuine “need”. Similarly, many Councils have no accurate figures for the number of empty homes, their figures being effectively based on council tax records." 

Another problem is that being on any such list is not an indication of 'need':

7,000 on waiting list for social housing in Exeter and East Devon

By AWalmesley | Posted: June 18, 2015

The scale of demand for social housing in Exeter and East Devon has been revealed – as latest figures showed thousands of people are waiting to find somewhere to live.

Some 4,927 households are on the city’s housing waiting list, and around 2,000 are on the list in East Devon.

Of those in Exeter, 486 households (9.86%) are classed as being in bands A and B, which means they are in ‘urgent’ need of accommodation.

But 2,512 households (51%) are deemed by the council as having ‘no housing need’.

The latest figures represent a 23% rise in Exeter and around a 20% drop in East Devon from the number of households on the lists in December 2014.

But it is not just East Devon where the figures are difficult to figure out.

Here is a very thorough paper which was commissioned by Shelter and the National Housing Federation in 2011:

Providing the evidence base for local housing need and demand assessments

Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research 
Department of Land Economy University of Cambridge 
October 2011

Issues relating to data sources 
A review of data sources showed that while total future housing requirements can be estimated readily from government household projections, estimating housing need is a particular problem due to limitations of waiting list data and the cost of bespoke household surveys. In addition, constrained demand is an issue that is only addressed from the census data and so rapidly becomes dated. Local authorities can undertake analyses of local housing market data which can provide an indication of housing market pressure.

Options going forwards/recommendations
It is also recommended that local authorities keep a separate, simple log of the number of applicants to their waiting lists ... that eliminates those who are not in need, as this would help ensure that waiting list data was robust.

The previous approach 
Research conducted by CCHPR in 2004-2006 for the then ODPM reviewed housing needs assessments (which were the pre-cursors to SHMAs) that were carried out by local authorities, though largely commissioned to private consultants (and primarily by just two or three consultants). These assessments tended to over-estimate housing need, partly because they used surveys and were measuring aspirations rather than need and partly because they used waiting lists which were generally very long and therefore produced high figures of need. Regional level assessments based on robust secondary data were found to produce significantly lower estimates than a summation of the agreed district assessments.

In the past waiting list data has often been used to assess the number of households currently in need of housing. However, these registered were often poorly maintained and can provide an exaggerated picture of existing need. When lists were revised, many households were found not to be in need but had registered as a kind of ‘insurance’. Others had left the area. The increasing use of Choice Based Lettings means that a lot of information is held about those bidding in each category or band and indeed on who actually gets allocated to affordable housing. But where supply is tightly constrained, many households in need may not bother to register, or the local authority may only maintain information about those in the highest priority banding, particularly if it analyses the system and finds that only those in band A ever get housed. So while this reduces the apparent waiting list, it does not mean that there is no need from households with less priority. As a result waiting list data can be very misleading. In the survey 64% said they are not a robust measure.

Bottom up methods often use local data, such as waiting lists, which are known to be variable and unreliable – indeed, some authorities no 27 longer maintain them. Where local household surveys are used, the findings reflect different methodologies and produce large estimates of housing need. The top down approach has the merit of being related to official government projections of population and households. In terms of total housing requirements, a top down demographically based approach could be developed that was consistent across local authorities and would sum to both the regional and national figures. Guidance on conducting such an estimate would be straightforward to produce. However, estimating the need for affordable housing would be more difficult. This is because ultimately whether and how much subsidised housing should be provided for different groups of households is politically determined.

The research also highlighted that waiting list data was not currently a robust source of information on local housing needs. However, it could be – if local authorities kept up to date waiting lists that reflected the level of need of applicants. Choice based lettings (CBL) would normally provide this – but some authorities, finding that they are only able to house those in priority need, have simply rejected all other applicants from their CBL web site. While this is understandable, it does not mean that there is no other housing need in the area, and a log of the numbers of other applicants would address the problem of estimating overall housing need. Therefore we recommend that those local authorities who retain a waiting list should keep it as up to date as possible. For CBL schemes, this would mean for example keeping a log of all those applicants in bands A, B and C but not D which is usually ‘not in need’ (most CBL schemes use a banding system to prioritise applicants).

To finish, here's a piece from the Guardian from last year:

Why council waiting lists are shrinking, despite more people in need of homes

The number of families on lists for council housing has fallen because of stricter rules on who can apply

There are 1,240,855 people on waiting lists for council housing in England. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Dawn Foster Thursday 12 May 2016

Comments 256

With worries about the precariousness and affordability of housing in the private rented sector, thousands of households each year apply to join local social housing registers.

The number of people on waiting lists for council housing stands at 1,240,855 in England, while in Scotland, 173,587 applicants are on local authority waiting lists, with demand in some areas far higher: there are 24,909 applicants in the city of Edinburgh.

But despite more people in need of homes, waiting lists are going down, not up.

On the surface, with the number down from 219,837 in 2001, it looks as though either Scotland has seen lower demand for council housing in the past 15 years, or more people have been housed. But several local authorities voted to transfer stock to housing associations, notably Glasgow. Before 2003, Glasgow’s waiting list stood at 34,209; now no public records are kept. Wales does not keep centralised figures on its waiting list numbers either.

England’s waiting lists have also gone down. The biggest single factor is the 2011 Localism Act. In London, the number of households on local authority waiting lists for housing fell from 380,301 in 2012, to 255,729 in 2014. This was because the 2011 act amended the Housing Act 1996, allowing councils to consider whether prospective council tenants had a “local connection” to the area – usually by living in the area, but occasionally working, a condition previously applied to a council’s homelessness duty.Council housing waiting lists in England and London, 2010-2015.

This change means that, in an attempt to limit the number of people on council lists, many instituted local connection conditions. A survey by Inside Housing magazine in March 2016 found 159 English councils have struck 237,793 people off their waiting lists and barred a further 42,994 new applicants since the Localism Act came into effect in June 2012. Ninety councils have introduced a requirement that applicants have a connection to the local area. Housing waiting lists over time.

The waiting list for London’s Barnet council fell from 16,103 to just 815 after it instituted a two-year rule on residency to confirm a local connection. And as of February 2015 the council has upped the number of years applicants must be resident from two to five. In Hammersmith and Fulham, too, residents must have lived in the borough for a minimum of five years.

Various other factors also affect the list numbers: councils are increasingly discharging their homelessness duty by offering private rented accommodation, sometimes in a different borough.


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