IW Council: Island residents at heart of new housing plans

A major new housing policy that ends the lifetime entitlement to social housing has been agreed, alongside a plan to give extra priority to residents who make a contribution to society.

In an approach which seeks to make best use of the limited public resources available to support those in greatest need, the Conservatives on the Isle of Wight Council will seek to introduce a more flexible approach to housing that would link it to employment for the first time.

The overhaul follows the introduction of the Localism Bill by the Conservative-led Government that given councils new freedoms and flexibilities in setting allocations policies that reflect local needs.

The new Tenancy Strategy has set out that social housing can, in future, be made available for fixed-term periods of between two and five years. This change means residents will not automatically be able to remain in social housing property that had become unsuitable for their needs, irrespective of a change of their financial or personal circumstances. For example, a large family whose children had left home would have their tenancy of their property reviewed if it was now considered to have surplus bedrooms.

To complement this, the council is planning to work with the housing associations to develop a Relocation Incentivisation Scheme, to encourage and assist existing tenants in downsizing where appropriate - thereby freeing up larger housing for those Island families in greatest need.

At the same time, the new strategy would also maintain the preference given to needy residents such as those who are made homeless, living in unsanitary or unsafe properties, those who require a move on medical or welfare grounds including disability and those who need to move to a particular locality to avoid hardship to themselves or family members.

In a further initiative to be developed with partners, it is proposed that residents will earn increased priority for social housing if they are in employment or taking steps towards securing employment. The prioritisation of such housing for residents with strong and long-standing connections to the Island would also be strengthened.

Cllr Stuart Hutchinson, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Housing said: "We now have the opportunity to ensure that social housing stock is used much more effectively to support those in greatest need. The Localism Act allows us to introduce a series of measures to help Island families into housing that is matched to their needs, with the opportunity to review this at timely intervals.

"It is also right that we help those people who - by being in work or taking firm steps in this direction - make an active contribution to Island life, where they are able to. This is not about penalising people who cannot work; it is about rewarding those who are seeking to do so.

"We are confident that this more flexible approach will make a positive difference to the lives of many Island families and help them on the right track towards employment and future home ownership, wherever possible. Our recently announced First Time Buyer Fund complements this approach by giving more Islanders the opportunity to get onto the property ladder.

"This is the first step in our plans to introduce a comprehensive new housing strategy which will meet the changing needs of our residents over the coming years - and ensure we help provide for the next generation of Islanders."