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NEW REPORT TO ENCOURAGE COUNCILS TO PREVENT HOMELESSNESS

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Housing Minister Sir George Young today published the consultation paper 'Access to Local Authority and Housing Ass...
Housing Minister Sir George Young today published the consultation paper 'Access to Local Authority and Housing Association Tenancies' which contains proposals to ensure fairer access to such tenancies, while retaining a safety net for those in most need.

In a Parliamentary Answer to Nirj Deva MP (Brentford and Isleworth), Sir George said: 'I have placed in the Library of the House today copies of a consultation paper setting out the Government's proposals to reform the homelessness legislation; to introduce arrangements that ensure fair access to local authority and housing association accommodation for all who need it.

'To make better use of the private sector; and to encourage local authorities to play a more active role in the prevention of homelessness. The current homelessness legislation provides an important safety net for families and vulnerable individuals who find themselves at risk of losing their home.

'But the homelessness legislation also provides those people, once they are accepted as statutorily homeless, with access to a permanent home ahead of others in as great or greater need who are on the housing waiting list. The Government believes that there should be a distinction between providing the necessary assistance for those faced with the prospect of having nowhere to live, and providing access to permanent housing.

'The tenancy of a council or housing association property is a real asset. We want to ensure that these tenancies go to those with the best claim to them. We want a fairer system in which, while retaining essential safeguards, local authorities have the flexibility to allocate the long term housing under their control to those with the best claim to it.

'Once a household has been given help in finding suitable short or medium term accommodation, their claim to permanent housing will be assessed alongside others on the waiting list who may be living in difficult circumstances, but who are not in need of immediate help; we propose to develop a clear framework within which authorities will be able to manage their allocations.

'I have also placed in the Library of the House today a newly published research report on the allocation of local authority housing. Our proposals will continue to provide a home for families and vulnerable individuals who are without other suitable accommodation in a crisis; it is not acceptable that such people should have nowhere to live. And for some disabled, elderly or mentally ill people, who have no prospect of ever finding accommodation for themselves, a local authority's duty to provide accommodation will be enduring.

'An essential element of our strategy for meeting the needs of those who are badly housed is to make the best use of all forms of existing housing stock. This is not confined to local authority and housing association property.

'There is considerable scope for developing the private rented sector to meet housing needs. Our proposals therefore encourage partnerships between local authorities and private landlords in order to increase access to good quality housing in the private rented sector. We also envisage a more positive role for local authorities in ensuring the provision of housing advice that will help prevent people becoming homeless.

'The Government is proposing a fairer and more effective system for meeting the housing needs of those who rely on rented housing, within the resources available. Our proposals would allow local authorities to make better use of the stock at their disposal, and end the unfairness that occurs under present arrangements.

'My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is placing in the Library of the House today a consultation paper setting out parallel proposals for Wales.'

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