Affordable housing shakeup in Wealden

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More people could soon be eligible for affordable housing in Wealden, after Council leaders agreed plans for a major policy shake-up.

Today (8th June), Wealden District Council’s Cabinet supported plans to remove the income threshold from its housing allocations policy. Currently requires households need to earn less than £30,500 per year to qualify for affordable housing.

The Cabinet decision replaces the income cap with an ‘affordability assessment’, which will look at the individual circumstances of whoever is seeking help looking to join the Council’s housing register.

Cllr Raymond Cade, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Housing and Waste, said:

This method examines the effect of living conditions, costs and incomes pertaining to that particular applicant — in other words a personal assessment set against the prevailing social, financial and circumstantial situation of the individual or household.

It is replacing an outdated, inefficient and inflexible scheme that is clearly not meeting the needs of people seeking an affordable and decent place to live in our district.

Cllr Cade

Cllr Cade went on to say the change was intended to help residents struggling with the rising cost of living who are ‘unable to sustain or access’ housing through the private sector.

Cabinet also heard that the number of applicants able to qualify to join the register had significantly declined since the policy was last reviewed in 2020, despite a year on year increase in applications.

The Cabinet decision will also see another significant change come forward.

The current system excludes any household which has savings of more than £6,000, or savings of more than £20,000 if they are seeking to rent retirement accommodation. These savings thresholds are to be significantly increased under the new system.

For retirement properties the threshold would increase to £50,000. The Council says this is intended to make it easier for a greater number of retired households to downsize from their current homes.

For working age households, meanwhile, the savings threshold would in future be linked to average house prices in Wealden. The figure will be set at a figure equal to 7.5 per cent of the average lower quartile (middle number of the lower half). As of April 2022, this equates to around £21,383.

Even with these financial changes applicants must still meet several other criteria to be eligible for housing. These include a local connection to the District, residence in the UK and evidence that they can ‘maintain a tenancy’.

These changes are set to go out to formal consultation with registered housing providers, but the Council says these organisations have already suggested similar proposals.

Once in effect, the changes would be reviewed after nine months to see whether any further policy changes are required.

Council leader Ann Newton said:

There has been an awful lot of work behind the scenes on this and I think it has to come forward, because the system in which we were working, just wasn’t working.

I think putting in the nine month review gives officers and us and members [the opportunity] to really look at this and see if it is working.

Cllr Newton, Leader Wealden District Council

Click to view a video of the meeting and see the Review of the Housing Policy.

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