‘Tweaks’ agreed to housing policy in Thurrock

TOP Thurrock councillors have backed a plan to "tweak" the housing allocations scheme for tenants and future tenants.

Cllr Lynn Worrall, the housing portfolio holder, told Wednesday (9 March) evening’s meeting of the cabinet the report looks at changes and "the way we are finding unusual ways of overcoming some of the problems Thurrock families face".

She said that "right at the top for innovation" was a plan to "reduce the threshold for older home owners who take part in our ‘Right Size’ scheme".

The plan is for people who own their own homes, but whose children had moved on, might consider allowing the council to rent them for homeless families – with the rent going to the home-owner – while the older people moved into and paid rent on sheltered accommodation.

It was a pilot scheme, she said, it would involve five year contracts, and the home would remain the property of the home owners and revert to them after five years or their families sooner if necessary.

Cllr Worrall said: "It’s a pilot scheme to see how it goes, but we all know older home owners who still live in their family homes long after the children have left. It’s a way of providing security for the family, but it also means older people rattling around in a large home with all the heating, cleaning and repairs that involves.

"Our pilot scheme aims to encourage some of these people to downsize to smaller sheltered accommodation in return for us letting their property to the homeless team to use for homeless households.

"The change in policy is to allow flexibility in the financial criteria so such owner occupiers can qualify for sheltered housing on a fixed-term basis."

Another "tweak" involves advertising Thurrock Choice Homes where "only one per cent of people interested actually use the papers". The system will go totally online with assistance for people who can’t access it.

In addition, the council will allow some elderly tenants to under-occupy two-bedroom sheltered and extra care accommodation when there are no other suitable applicants waiting; introduce a system so the housing panel can award a priority to prevent homelessness; update the financial qualification in line with current house rental and purchase prices; and regularise local lettings plans for new developments as was done at Seabrooke and South Ockendon.

Cllr Worrall added: "Finally we are introducing a new information programme for all new tenants to help them understand their rights and responsibilities."

The changes will be introduced from 1 April.

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