New rules in place for council house allocation
SERVICEMEN and women will now get a substantial leg up if they want to move to mid-Somerset.
New rules on the allocation of council and housing association homes will see those with no link to Somerset bounced off the housing list.
But service and ex-service personnel will get priority – and be moved two years up the waiting list.
Applicants on the Somerset Homefinder housing register who do not have a local connection such as a family, a job in the Somerset, or anyone who has not lived in the area for six out of 12 months, or three out of the last five years will no longer be eligible to apply for housing.
A review of the current Homefinder Somerset Allocations Policy, which has been approved by Mendip District Council Cabinet at a cabinet meeting on October 14, will also result in changes to banding and see service personnel or ex-service personnel given priority within their banding status.
While Somerset has had an open housing register for the past five years, the authorities in the surrounding areas have closed their registers and are restricting access based on local connection.
Stating that applicants must have a local connection is legal under the Localism Act 2011, which allows local authorities to restrict access to the housing register to qualifying applicants and to set their own criteria for what the qualify person might be.
Councillor Nigel Woollcombe-Adams explained: "It is important to note that service personnel and ex-service personnel will be exempt from the local connection clause."
"I think in general we as a country and as a district owe it to our service personnel, who have often given up years of their lives for this country, to help them find housing when they need it."
Applicants who are sharing facilities who do not have dependent children will no longer be placed within silver band and will be downgraded to bronze.
Bands are graded from gold through to bronze with gold as the most urgent banding.
Anyone who requests re-housing to receive or give support within Homefinder Somerset must demonstrate that there is a high level of support needed and those who are pregnant or with children under 10 years old living in accommodation above ground floor level but with access to a lift will be assessed as bronze and not the current silver band.
Relationship breakdowns will no longer be classed as silver band criteria as it has been decided that this is hard to prove and the applicants are still eligible to apply for "other homeless" or "shared facilities" banding criteria.
Members of the cabinet were concerned that anyone in a violent relationship would no longer be able to apply for silver banding leaving them in a vulnerable position but have been reassured by staff from the housing options department at Mendip, that anyone in a violent situation will be fully supported.
When asked about support for those in a violent relationship a Mendip spokeswoman said: "Clients who have a relationship breakdown as a result of actual or a threat of domestic abuse will be considered separately and may be awarded Gold or Emergency band status.
"In addition under the Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002), clients in this situation may be entitled to additional support and emergency housing."
The spokeswoman added that Mendip urges anyone who is at risk of or suffering from domestic abuse to contact one of the Council's Housing Options Team at the earliest opportunity, in confidence, to discuss the options available to them.
To be in line with new welfare benefit legislation, amendments have also been made to bedroom size eligibility, in respect of the ages children can share bedrooms, any two children of the same sex under 16 can share, as can any two children under 10 irrespective of their sex.
As people's expectations of Homefinder Somerset have changed over the last year, the number of applicants on the list has decreased from 3500 to 2500.
Every member of the Cabinet approved the review.