Waltham Council alters housing allocation rules

Residents who have lived in Waltham Forest for less than five years will no longer be able to join the council housing register after changes to the Housing Allocation Rules.

The changes, which could be in place for the next five to ten years, were made at a virtual cabinet meeting held online yesterday (April 23) to comply with lockdown rules.

The new rules, which offer exceptions in extreme cases such as homelessness or victims of domestic abuse, were made in response to severe over-demand and a lack of housing.

Cllr Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for housing and homelessness prevention, said more than 9,000 households are currently waiting to be housed, including almost 2,000 homeless households in temp.

Cllr Mitchell (Lab and Co-op, Chapel End) told the cabinet: “Though we now have our largest social house-building programme in decades, it is still incredibly difficult for us to meet the needs of our residents.

“Many residents have been on the register for significant periods of time, in some cases more than 10 years.

“We need a simplified policy that is easier to understand to help residents make informed choices on how to solve their housing situation.”

She added that the new, more simplified system was aimed at ensuring residents have “realistic and manageable expectations” about what the council can do for them.

There are currently only around 600 council properties available, most of which have only one bedroom.

A report presented to the housing scrutiny committee on February 12 proposed five changes to the current system, all of which have now been approved.

The most controversial of these would mean “two people of the same gender and generation should be required to share a bedroom regardless of their age”.

Currently, children aged 16 or over are entitled to their own room – and 38 per cent of responders to the council’s online survey last year disagreed or strongly disagreed with the change.

The report explained: “While we recognise that in an ideal world, teenage children would have their own bedrooms, we feel that it is unlikely that many owner-occupiers would expect to move to a larger property when their older children turn 16.”

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter