By Local democracy Reporter
SOCIAL cleansing is the label given to a new housing waiting list policy that is being considered by Thurrock Council.
If proposals to change the policy were to go ahead it would mean young people on low income and living with their parents will no longer be able to apply for the wait list, neither will older people looking to move to sheltered housing.
The review was discussed by the council’s housing scrutiny committee on December 18 and branded by the meeting’s chair, Labour Councillor Gerard Rice, as “social cleansing”.
He said: “We are talking about young people who have limited access to money through their employment, they will be excluded and that cannot be right – you don’t count, that is what we will be saying. We can’t just abandon people.
“How is that young lad or young girl who is working down at Lakeside and on ten grand a year going to get a flat? If they can’t get it out of the social sector they won’t be able to afford it in the private sector. It locks everything down, we are getting into social cleansing.”
The council currently has 9,140 applicants on their housing wait list and they have been divided into five separate bands based on their circumstances.
The changes would see the whole of Band 5 – people considered to be “adequately housed” – eliminated from the wait list, cutting almost 3,000 people from the list. This would include those living with parents and older people who have a home but wish to move to more suitable sheltered accomodation.
Independent Councillor Luke Spillman said: “We are closing the door on young people when the private sector has already closed the door and that statement says that there is nowhere in Thurrock where you can afford to live anymore. The only option these people will have is to leave the borough to go to poorer areas where housing is cheaper, that will be their only option. We are making a big statement if we get rid of band 5 and I will never support this.”
Conservative councillors did not agree that it would constitute social cleansing. Councillor Joycelyn Redsell questioning if there is a “moral right” to children living at home with their parents and said her take is young people should “live with mum and dad and save up”.
Council officers defended the measures saying that they would prevent people from having “unrealistic expectations” that they will get a home. However, they also admitted that an average of 50 people on band 5 are housed each year.
Other proposed changes include applicants having to have lived in the borough for six years rather than five and only being able to refuse to move into a property two times rather than three.
The maximum income a person is earning to qualify would also be increased to better reflect the increase in house prices. Key NHS workers will be able to apply to be part of the waitlist even if they do not have a local connection.