SBC should withdraw the proposal to introduce compulsory “affordability assessment”

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Swindon council currently offers advice and support to tenants in relation to finances, benefits and employment for anyone who wishes to receive their help. However, the council is now proposing to introduce a compulsory “affordability assessment” for all households registered on the Council’s housing waiting list, and all current council tenants applying to move to an SBC home which would have a rent higher than their existing property.

When people apply to go on the council’s housing waiting list they are subject to an assessment to see if they have an household income sufficient to be able “to afford a suitable property on the market”, whether that be private rent, a mortgage or part-ownership. If it’s judged that they can afford this then they are blocked from joining the list. The council introduced this against tenant opposition (See Throwing people off the waiting list 1). We believed it was a convenient means of cutting the numbers on the waiting list. It fell from over 16,000 households to less than 4,000.(Read on below or download a PDF here allocationschanges )
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We need more Council homes with Council rents, not less

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This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser

Given the fact that there have been hardly any Councils homes built over the last few decades the fanfare over “biggest build for 30 years”  is spurious. Under the New Labour government’s National Affordable Homes Programme there were, I think, only 42 built, though these did at least charge Council rents. The 100 under this government’s “Affordable Homes” programme might sound like an improvement on very little. In fact it’s less than it appears. The bid that has been accepted will not provide an additional 100 homes, but only 67, since 33 flats at Sussex Square will be demolished. So it doesn’t even add up to the 33 homes per year that Mark Dempsey suggested.

David Renard told the Adver: “It shows we are committed to investing in our housing stock and providing sustainable homes for people who need them.” It shows nothing of the sort. To put it in context, the Council lost 67 homes through ‘right to buy’ in just one year, 2013-14. So a programme which produces an additional 67 homes over three years will not even keep pace with the loss of homes through ‘right to buy’. More

2014: Defending Council housing and campaigning for an annual Council house building programme

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A new year’s message from Swindon Tenants Campaign Group

So what’s ahead in 2014 on the housing front in Swindon? Firstly, around 7,500 individuals and families who are currently on Band C of the Council’s housing waiting list will be receiving a letter telling them that they will be taken off the list since the Council is closing down Band C. How do they justify doing this? The Lead Member responsible for housing said that most of the people on the list shouldn’t be on there, they could “probably” afford to buy a house. When challenged as to what evidence he had, he was forced to admit that he had none. Why would people who could afford to buy a house put their name down on the list when they know of the acute shortage of homes available?

The Housing director justified the closure of Band C by saying that it was “more honest” to tell these people that they had no chance of a Council home. Of course, neither argument addresses the key question, the need to build more Council housing. That’s the way to cut the waiting list rather than closing down Band C and pretending that these people have no housing need. Many of them might have acceptable accommodation but whether they can easily afford the very high private sector rents is another matter altogether.  More

“The right to evict tenants who have done nothing wrong”

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This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser in response to a report on the Council’s ‘Tenancy Strategy’

The report to Swindon’s Cabinet on its ‘Tenancy Strategy’ excluded some key things. Why, for instance, were Cabinet members not told that all the tenant groups are opposed to ‘fixed term tenancies’ and an income ‘threshold’? Why were they not told that the working group set up by the Council unanimously opposed their proposals, or that the Housing Advisory Forum has called on the Council to “maintain secure tenancies for existing tenants and future tenants”? For the first time ever the Cabinet was not informed of the point of view adopted by the HAF. Why?

If the Council treats the tenants it consults with, with such contempt, airbrushing their opinions out of the record, and keeping Cabinet members in the dark, what confidence can we have that the ‘consultation’ will be anything other than a rubber stamping exercise? To add insult to injury they have launched their ‘consultation’ during the height of the summer holidays. More

Swindon Council’s Housing Strategy – ‘the market’ offers no solution to the housing crisis

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Download a PDF of this here swindoncouncilhstrat

Swindon Council is looking to develop what it calls “an overarching housing strategy, which will encompass social housing, intermediate and private market housing and include a refined approach to the challenge of vulnerable people facing homelessness.” It intends to organise a conference as part of the consultation process and ‘evidence gathering’. These are some initial observations on the document passed at the last Council meeting, “Housing Market Support”. Swindon Tenants Campaign Group will submit a more detailed paper to the consultation.

The Council’s document, “Housing Market Support”, does recognise some elements of the housing crisis which we face locally and nationally. It points out that: More

Swindon Council’s Housing List continues to rise

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Swindon Council’s January 2013 Housing List figures shows a continued rise in households on there. There are 15,093 households on the List. 12,784 are on the Waiting List and 2,309 on the Transfer List. The Transfer List includes existing tenants of the Council and local Housing Associations who have asked for a move and/or are considered to be over-crowded, needing more bedrooms. More

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