As part of the reorganisation of local government, Co Durham is going to get a “common lettings policy”.
Essentially this means that across the whole county, housing applicants will be able to “bid” for any individual participating social housing property which is vacant, with their applications then being dealt with according to their priority ranking, ranging from A-E according to the assessment of their needs.
The system is being trialled in Easington District, under the marketing style of Durham Key Options, and if you’re interested in exploring how it is intended to work it’s worth looking at their website, http://www.durhamkeyoptions.co.uk/Data/ASPPages/1/30.aspx Currently only “East Durham Homes” are participating in this trial.
The argument goes – and it makes sense – that people who have positively bid for a specific house are much more likely to be happy long-term tenants than people who are pushed into a tenancy.
There are some controversial elements too, like the fact that category A (the people at the top of the pecking order) will include anyone willing to move out of an “easy-to-let home”. So someone with a four bedroom family house to let in a sought after area, for instance, could get equal ranking with someone with an urgent medical need for a bungalow, or someone being forced out of their home for regeneration. The intention is to encourage people out of some of the most sought after properties. It might entice, for example, a couple whose family has grown up to vacate a four bedroom family house and so free up resources. Others might say, it could simply perpetuate privilege for people who are lucky enough to live in the most desirable homes.
Other questions were asked about the fact that people judged to be homeless would get a three month period to bid for houses of their choice with priority assured. One councillor thought that would allow people adjudged homeless to “cherry pick”, whereas they ought to be grateful to be offered any suitable home.
From my point of view the system looks a good idea, so long as the process of “bidding” for a home is easy for all (i.e. not heavily biased towards people with the internet, people living near a local housing office, or people who are confident on the phone) and is constantly monitored to check that the rules are being applied fairly and transparently. We are all too aware of past claims of failure in terms of fairness and transparency.
As usual, I’d be pleased to hear any views. I’m pleased to say that some people do email me their thoughts, even when they don’t want to comment on the website where everyone could read their thoughts.