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ACCESS TO TENANCIES - MAIN CHANGES

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Main changes proposed to the present homelessness legislation, in the light of the January 1994 consultation paper....
Main changes proposed to the present homelessness legislation, in the light of the January 1994 consultation paper.

1. It is proposed to legislate to implement the consultation paper proposal that a homeless person will only be entitled to assistance if there is no suitable alternative accommodation available which the household could reasonably occupy (a similar provision already applies to asylum seekers).

2. It is proposed that when a local authority accepts responsibility for securing accommodation for a homeless household, it must find accommodation for a minimum of 12 months; if it is still involved in the provision of such accommodation after two years, it will be required to review the household's circumstances.

3. This duty to secure accommodation could recur if, after the initial period of duty ends, the person in question again passes the necessary tests (of being unintentionally homeless, having no alternative accommodation available, and being in priority need).

4. To assist authorities in screening cases where a person claims assistance under the homelessness legislation because they are asked to leave by parents, relatives or friends, consideration is being given to allowing local authorities to take account of the intentions of the landlord, as well as the intentions of the homeless person.

5. Persons from abroad admitted to this country on the understanding that they will have no recourse to public funds will not be entitled to assistance under the homelessness legislation.

6. New arrangements for appeal will be established, to lessen the present reliance on judicial review. Each local authority will be required to establish a formal mechanism whereby a person can challenge a decision by the authority's officers on the homelessness application. Consideration is being given to how this might relate to any challenge through the courts.

7. In allocating permanent accommodation to new tenants local authorities will be required to allocate secure tenancies in their own stock, and nominations to assured housing association tenancies, only to applicants on their waiting lists.

8. Local authorities' allocation policy must accord with any terms and conditions set out in regulations made by the Secretary of State. These would be the minimum necessary to ensure fairness and consistency; they could cover matters such as who may or may not appear on a waiting list.

9. A duty will be placed on local authorities to secure the provision of housing advisory services to assist people in finding accommodation and to prevent homelessness. Proposals on which it is proposed to start development work prior to any legislation.

10. The development of a more comprehensive set of advisory services to prevent homelessness.

11. The promotion of common waiting lists, held jointly for a local authority and the housing associations in its area, on a voluntary basis.

12. The encouragement of the development of more rational allocation systems for local authority housing.

13. The encouragement of local authorities in the development of partnerships with the private rented sector.

14. The development of rent guarantee (or rent deposit) arrangements as an aid to making better use of the private rented sector for those in housing need.

15. Promotion of the private rented sector for re-housing the homeless, within the constraints of the present legislation. Proposals in the consultation paper not to be pursued.

16. The consultation paper proposed (in paragraph 5.2) that the duty to accommodate should not start until after assessment, leaving local authorities the power to accommodate at an earlier stage where this was required. Ministers intend to retain a duty for local authorities to provide assistance whilst they are considering applications.

17. The consultation paper proposed that a person who is occupying accommodation of any sort, however temporary, should not be regarded as homeless (paragraph 8.4). Ministers intend to retain the current duty towards those in accommodation of a temporary character.

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