Plans to revamp housing allocation to put ‘greatest need’ first as council unveils new five-year strategy

East Ham Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

East Ham Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The council plans to revamp its housing allocations policy to focus on those with the greatest need and alleviating severe overcrowding.

Faced with the UK’s most severe housing crisis, the council wants to move away from a system which “de facto prioritises those in employment”. It says this system, in place since 2012, leads to too many residents languishing in overcrowded, insecure or inadequate housing, despite their acute need.

Cabinet members agreed to consult residents and other stakeholders on a proposed new policy for deciding who is given social housing, which would adopt an approach of putting “highest need” first. It would remove a bidding advantage to households in work and give greater priority to those facing severe overcrowding.

Cllr John Gray, cabinet member for housing, said: “We are at the sharp end of the deep national housing crisis, with over 27,000 currently on the housing list, and over 5,000 currently in temporary accommodation. This is why, in addition to building more homes, we have to review our allocations policy to make sure it is fit for purpose.”

Consultation is expected to begin this month, with changes to be agreed in early 2021.

The council is set to unveil a draft five-year strategy to address the housing crisis in Newham. Cabinet approved plans to consult residents on the strategy, separately to the allocation policy, over the next three months.

It sets out the scale of the challenge and how the council plans to tackle the crisis of affordability, insecurity and need.

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Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said: “We know the scale of investment required is massive – both for building new homes and bringing existing homes up to standard - but in the face of the crisis facing our borough, we’ll continue prioritising housing delivery as we scale up our plans and meet promised targets.

“We face an enormous challenge in the face of a broken housing system, a post-Covid-19 recession and continued under-funding of local authorities.”

Newham is also moving to upgrade its housing to make it safe and environmentally sustainable, starting with a comprehensive stock condition survey and allocating £96m to a three-year maintenance programme.