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Covid-19 allocation process

Reading Borough Council response to coronavirus (COVID 19) guidance for social landlords on essential moves (published 27 April 2020)

1. Overview of Guidance

1.1. To help reduce the spread of the infection, the government is recommending that as far as possible, people should delay moving in to a new home while emergency measures are in place to fight the coronavirus.

1.2. This guidance advises all social landlords to pause non-essential allocation and transfer activity.

1.3. Essential activity deemed to be in the public interest would include:

  • supporting victims of domestic abuse and people fleeing other forms of violence
  • preventing severe overcrowding
  • facilitating move-on from temporary accommodation
  • facilitating discharge from hospital to free-up bed space for others requiring care
  • supporting those living in unsafe accommodation, or without settled accommodation, which poses a risk to their health

1.4. Landlords will need to consider how to carry out these functions for the most essential moves in line with the government's advice on staying at home and away from others - for example moving from a 'choice based lettings' system to a system of direct lets, where resources allow.

1.5. Allocations still need to be made in line with Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 and to eligible and qualifying applicants.

1.6. It is a matter for local authorities to determine whether to make any exceptions to normal qualification criteria to help safeguard those most at risk during this time and offer tenancies they feel are most appropriate.

2. Process parameters

2.1. This RBC guidance has been developed in line with the government guidelines regarding Social Housing Allocations COVID19 and will be reviewed when the guidelines are revoked, new guidelines are issued, or there are significant changes to social distancing guidance.

2.2. Reading Borough Council (RBC) will only allocate property though this process for a temporary period of time, to ensure that other non-essential moves are able to take place at the earliest possible opportunity. 

2.3. This guidance note covers activities relating to the nomination of properties to individuals, other key decision making continues to be made during the current outbreak, which include management transfer decisions, medical assessments, qualification to Homechoice at Reading and homeless decisions.

2.4. This guidance is in line with the current published Allocations Scheme.

2.5. Allocations will only be made to those who are eligible for an allocation of social housing, qualify to join the Housing Register, as detailed in section 14 of the published Allocations Scheme, and who have an active application on Homechoice at Reading.

2.6. Allocations can only be able to take place if suitable properties are available. 

2.7. RBC will retain the right to make best use of the available accommodation to respond to demand in line with direction from government when dealing with the current pandemic.

3. Essential activity

3.1. RBC consider the essential activity which will apply to moves during this period to be for:

  • Those on Homechoice at Reading who have been awarded a Band A to reflect the need for an urgent move as a result of a medical need, and RBC tenants who have been identified to be at risk in their home as a result of domestic, or other violence, and have been accepted for a management transfer move
  • Those who are occupying temporary accommodation, with an accepted homeless duty
  • Those who are considered to be severely overcrowded and their home situation presents a Category 1 Hazard under HHSRS guidance, these cases will be considered on a case by case basis, assessing the level of risk present.
  • Other exceptional circumstances

3.2. RBC will ensure that all applicants registered for a move via Homechoice at Reading are aware of this criteria during the identified period.

4. Process

4.1. RBC properties will not be advertised on Choice Based Lettings, offers will be made directly to applicants to ensure that only essential activity is being carried out in line with the government guidance. Direct offers will be made in line with section 22 of Reading Borough Councils Allocation Scheme and the reduced criteria for allocation set out in this document. 

4.2. Any offers made for properties that were advertised prior to lockdown will be honoured where possible.  Applicants will be asked if they wish to move during this time.  It will not be considered to be a refusal if applicants do not take up the offer of the property as they do not wish to move during the current lockdown

4.3. If an applicant is unable to move as a result of vulnerabilities but would like the property to remain available to them, the decision to keep the property  available will be made on a case by case basis, taking into consideration the current government shielding advice, the availability of property type, and the need for the type of accommodation within the essential move criteria.

4.4. RBC will retain a list of all vacant properties along with their attributes, such as location, type of accommodation, level access, adaptations, etc.

4.5. RBC will identify those who fall within the essential move criteria and will consider each applicant, who is suitable for the available properties:

  • Band A for medical or risk
    • These applicants will be considered in date order of when the band was awarded however priority will be given based on the type and location of accommodation available
  • Homeless households occupying temp
    • These applications will be considered in date order of when their homeless duty was accepted
  • Severely overcrowded accommodation
    • These applications will be considered in date order of their application being accepted to Homechoice at Reading and where their overcrowded situation has been assessed as high risk.  These cases will be identified by the Voids and Lettings Team and presented to the Assistant Housing Needs Manager for a move to be considered
  • Exceptional circumstances

 

4.6. Officers will make contact with applicants, where there is suitable accommodation available, to understand if they are in a position to move, and wish to move during this period.  There is no obligation for anyone to accept a move during this period if they do not wish to do so.

4.7. If it is found that an applicant is able and willing to move, information is gathered to understand what area they wish to move to, and to understand any additional needs of the household.

4.8. Officers will make the applicant aware of the accommodation available that is suitable for the household and ascertain if this is accommodation which they would like to be considered for.

4.9. Verification of applicants will still take place however applicants will not be expected to provide original documents, but emailed documents and photos will be accepted.  All verification documents will be stored as usual.

4.10. Once agreed, a viewing will be arranged, closely observing social distancing guidelines, within 3 working days of the accommodation being ready to view.  The applicant can request to accept a property without a viewing if they wish to do so or request a virtual tour.

4.11. The applicant will be expected to accept the accommodation unless the accommodation is deemed unreasonable for them to occupy, in line with the Suitability of Accommodation Order (2012) principles.

4.12. The applicant will receive a formal offer of the identified accommodation within 1 working day of a viewing and will be expected to sign the tenancy agreement for the tenancy to commence the next available Monday.  Any delay in a move must be agreed by the Voids and Lettings Team.

4.13. Any refusal of accommodation will be considered in line with section 24 of the Allocations Scheme.  It is important to note that if a homeless household agrees to moving and subsequently refuses the accommodation offered, the duty to them under Part 7 of the 1996 Housing Act, and their temporary accommodation will come to an end.  RBC will issue notice to end the temporary accommodation once the current government guidelines in relation to this have been lifted.  This will be discussed with each household and reiterated in the formal offer letter.

4.14. Once an offer is accepted any duty owed to that households, such as a homeless duty, will come to an end.  Homechoice at Reading applications will be closed and if there is a need for a further move the applicant will need to reapply to join Homechoice at Reading and a further assessment of their current situation will be made.

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