Council to reinstate lifetime tenancies for its social housing
Fixed-term tenancies on Council homes in St Albans District are to be abolished in favour of lifetime ones.
St Albans City and District Council has joined a growing number of social landlords that have decided to reverse the policy that was introduced in 2015.
The move will give greater security to present and future tenants while cutting back on unnecessary and costly administration work.
Only some 12% of flexible tenancies are currently ended at the expiry date.
Changes to tenancy rules were proposed in a report to the Council’s Cabinet meeting on Thursday 22 October.
Cabinet agreed to the recommendations which will come into force from January next year.
The Council owns more than 4,909 social-rent properties with a limited number on fixed-term tenancies of up to five years.
They were introduced as part of attempts to ensure properties did not become under-occupied as a household size changed.
A number of initiatives have reduced that problem so it is no longer a pressing consideration. These include the refurbishment and redevelopment of the Council’s sheltered housing stock as well as an incentive scheme for people wishing to downsize and move to a more manageable home.
New tenants will still be given an introductory tenancy of 12 months. They will then be offered a lifetime tenancy provided there is no action pending over rent arrears, complaints of antisocial behaviour or other issues.
A further change to the tenancy strategy recognises that an affordable rent level may be the only way to make the building of some new housing financially viable.
The Council is committed to providing properties on its own housing land at social rent. When building new homes, the Council seeks to obtain grant funding for new developments to make social rents possible.
Other registered providers, such as housing associations, are not always eligible for the grants depending on the nature of the new development. An affordable rent level, which is higher than social rent, can be the only way to make the new housing viable.
However, affordable rents can be as much as eighty per cent of market rate, which is above the Local Housing Allowance benefit level and can mean rents are still unaffordable for some people.
With this new policy, the Council therefore wishes to encourage Registered Providers who build new affordable homes in the District to set rents at a level which do not exceed the Local Housing Allowance rate as set by the government.
Cabinet also agreed to some changes to the Council’s policy for allocating its housing to applicants.
In line with Government guidance, greater protection will be given to people who are divorced or separated from a member of the Armed Forces and need to move out of Ministry of Defence Accommodation. They will now be exempt from meeting the local connection criteria.
Councillor Jacqui Taylor, Portfolio Holder for Housing, Inclusion and Protection, said after the meeting:
All of these changes were very carefully considered and subjected to extensive consultation and scrutiny.
We will also continue to monitor both our tenancy rules and housing allocation policy to ensure that they are responsive to the needs of the District.
I think it is in the best interests of our tenants that we have abolished fixed term tenancies. They added extra costs to our administration budget without achieving anything of significance.
Permanent tenancies will give our tenants the security they desire and help them better plan for the future.
And where there are other registered providers of housing in the district who use affordable rents, we would like to see those rents at levels that people can actually afford.
For more information about Local Housing Allowance rates, please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-housing-allowance.
Councillor Contact: Councillor Jacqui Taylor, Portfolio Holder for Housing, Inclusion and Protection for St Albans City and District Council: firstname.lastname@example.org; 07971 906343.