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Pembrokeshire Politics West Wales

Proof of Pembrokeshire links may soon be needed to get social housing

Pembrokeshire County Council County Hall

PEMBROKESHIRE’S social housing allocation policy could soon change, including applicants needing a stronger proof of a connection to the county.

Members of the county council’s Policy and Pre-Decision Overview and Scrutiny Committee, discussing the proposals ahead of a final decision at the council’s Cabinet later this month, viewed the proposed changes.

A report for members at the April meeting stated: “The current Choice Homes Allocations policy has been in use since 2014. Since then, we have seen significant increases in demand on the housing and homelessness sectors for multiple reasons including changes related to legislation and welfare reform, impacts of the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.

“Pembrokeshire, like all local authorities across Wales, has seen significant increases in the number of people wishing to access social housing and unprecedented increases in homeless presentations.”

It added: “Currently, Pembrokeshire operates an open housing register, which is out of step with our regional local authority partners.

Bringing in tighter eligibility criteria to join the register will ensure that social housing in Pembrokeshire is going to those in the county with the most housing need.”

A five-year connection to the county is now proposed.

It says the social housing sector has seen a 30.8 per cent increase in the overall number of those on the housing register since 2014; the proposed revisions allowing “for a more flexible and dynamic approach to the allocation of social housing and thus also allowing us to make better use of our housing stock”.

Members heard that roughly 60 per cent of households on the register had been assessed as having a one-bedroom need, but only 21 per cent of the stock was one-bed.

“Proposed changes in the allocations policy looks to relieve some of that pressure, by relaxing the rules around bedroom eligibility and allowing people to bid on properties with one bedroom more than their assessed need if they can evidence that they can afford it,” the report said.

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It added: “One of the consequences of the revised allocations policy is that there may be households who no longer qualify to join the register. For those who reside outside of Pembrokeshire, and are not exempt from the exclusion, this is the intended outcome.

“Furthermore, there may be people in Pembrokeshire who are unable to join the register as they have been assessed as not in housing need, but who are still unable to afford to purchase a property in the county.

“To mitigate this issue, we are proposing to create the Affordable Housing Register. This is for those who wish to register their interest for affordable housing options, such as intermediate rent, shared ownership, rent to own etc.”

Members also herd: “The desired outcome of shuffling the banding and removal of priority status is to allow for more allocations to be made to those who are not homeless, deterring the belief that homelessness is a fast track into housing.

“Once agreed, there will be a period of preparation prior to the Policy becoming operational as all housing applicants will need to re-apply, community engagement roadshows undertaken to publicise and explain the changes. Therefore a 12-month period of preparation will be required.”

Members at the April 9 committee meeting unanimously agreed to recommend Cabinet approves the proposals.