1.6 Allocations incentives such as Downsizing Policies are supported by Scottish Government as good practice in making best use of housing stock.

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1 The Highland Council Housing and Social Work Committee 10 November 2010 Agenda Item Report No Highland Housing Register Downsizing Policy Report by Director of Housing and Property Summary This report contains proposals for a Downsizing Policy to encourage and support tenants of Highland Housing Register landlords who wish to move to a smaller home. This approach aims to make best use of the current housing stock by freeing up larger houses for applicants on the housing register. This type of approach is a useful method for meeting housing needs effectively, particularly at a time when the new build affordable housing programme is under pressure. 1. Background 1.1 As a needs based system Highland Housing Register provides information about the demand and need for social rented housing in Highland s communities. It also profiles the housing circumstances of those applying for housing, including those who are already tenants of Highland Housing Register landlords. 1.2 The register records the level of under-occupation amongst existing Highland Housing register tenants wishing to transfer to a smaller house. It also records the volume of households with a need for family sized housing, often at significant cost to the Highland Council in terms of temporary accommodation provision. 1.3 In addition, ongoing housing management service delivery across the partner landlords continues to identify a number of usually older tenants who would like to have moved, but who have never applied to do so because of the financial and practical barriers this presents. 1.4 For this reason the consultation that formed part of the Highland Housing Register policy review included a question on downsizing. The full response to this consultation was reported in to the Housing and Social Work Committee in May Highland Housing Register applicants and tenants supported an incentive scheme which assisted with the cost of moving house, but more particularly offered one to one practical support and guidance in moving home. 1.6 Allocations incentives such as Downsizing Policies are supported by Scottish Government as good practice in making best use of housing stock. 2. Downsizing Policy 2.1 A copy of the proposed Downsizing Policy is attached at Appendix 1 to this report.

2 2.2 The policy sets out the intention to support existing tenants who have already applied to move to a smaller home, and in turn to encourage those who have not yet made this decision to consider doing so. 2.3 The policy therefore seeks to deliver 2 core aims of the Highland Housing Register making best use of stock helping households in housing need achieve housing. 2.4 The Downsizing Policy clarifies that all tenants of Highland Housing Register landlords with a secure tenancy agreement will be eligible for financial and practical assistance to move home, subject to the following conditions: their house can be used to accommodate a family in housing need and they accept a transfer of tenancy to a smaller sized house. 2.5 Tenants will also continue to have their eligibility to transfer assessed in terms of rent arrears and property condition as set out in the Highland Housing Register Allocations Policy. 2.6 The policy sets out the package of financial assistance that will be available when these criteria are met. A payment of 1,500 will be made based on moving to a house which is 2 bedrooms smaller. Each additional bedroom freed up will attract an additional payment. 2.7 The policy sets out the type of practical assistance to be offered based on feedback from the consultation exercise and ranges from advice and information to hands on practical support, for example with change of address notifications and form filling. 2.8 It is recommended that the policy be introduced Highland wide for an initial 6 month period up to a maximum funding level of 75,000. An evaluation will then look at the resource impact in terms of both costs and the effect on existing housing management service delivery. 3 Resource Implications 3.1 It is intended that costs are covered from the Highland Housing Register budget. These costs are reported separately in the HRA revenue monitoring statements. 3.2 Given the often limited availability of stock of the specific type, size and location to meet transfer aspirations it is difficult to estimate uptake of the scheme. 3.3 Assuming a grant of 1,500 per tenant for an estimated 50 tenants the anticipated costs of a Highland wide scheme for a 6 month period would be 75, Legal Implications 4.1 The Downsizing Policy is open to tenants of any Highland Housing Register social landlord. The legal requirements of operating and managing a housing register as well as provision of social landlord services are set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act There are no additional legal implications in delivering a Downsizing Policy. 4.2 The Scottish Housing Regulator activity standards on lettings includes a requirement for social landlords to let houses in a way that gives reasonable preference to those in housing need, and makes best use of stock. The proposed

3 scheme complies with this regulatory requirement. 5. Equality Implications 5.1 Eligibility for the scheme will result in some Highland Housing Register tenants who move house being advantaged financially and practically in a way that other tenants moving home will not. 5.2 There will be local imbalances in the supply and demand of suitable smaller housing that might limit access to some applicants. 6. Climate change implications 6.1 There are no climate change implications arising from these proposals 7. Risk Implications 7.1 There are implications for costs and staffing resources in this approach that will be evaluated after the 6 month pilot period. 8. Recommendation The Committee is asked to 4.1 Agree the proposals to implement a Downsizing Policy for an initial 6 month pilot period. 4.2 Note that an evaluation of this pilot will be presented at a future committee. Signature: Designation: Director of Housing and Property Date: 2 November 2010 Author: Lyn Kilpatrick, Housing Policy Officer

4 Highland Housing Register - Downsizing Policy Appendix 1 1. Purpose The purpose of this policy is to maximise opportunities for much needed family homes by assisting tenants of Highland Housing Register landlords to move to a smaller home when they want to. The policy aims: 1) To provide financial and practical assistance to tenants who already want to move to a smaller home. 2) In turn, to encourage other tenants to consider a move at an earlier stage than they might otherwise have done. Reasons to consider moving to a smaller home include: Finding your home becoming too costly to run and difficult to manage The number of people in the household has reduced (eg, children have grown up and left home) You may want to move to a different location to be nearer family, work or carers Finding the stairs too difficult to manage In these circumstances, eligible Highland Housing Register tenants who would like to move to a smaller home can be supported with financial and practical help that make moving home a more positive experience. 2. Principles This approach to managing under-occupation supports 2 of the main aims of Highland Housing Register Allocations Policy: Making best use of any available social rented stock Helping households in housing need achieve suitable housing 3. Eligibility Eligibility for the Downsizing Scheme is open to secure tenants of any Highland Housing Register landlord who applies to move to a smaller house in the Highland area where: There is evidenced need that the type, size and location of the home they are leaving can be used to accommodate a family in housing need and they accept an offer of a smaller sized house from one of the Highland Housing Register partner landlords. Additional priority will apply where an adaptation is required to the existing home and a move to a smaller house will appropriately meet this need.

5 4. What s included in the Downsizing Scheme? Eligible tenants will qualify for the following financial and practical support. This is separate to any Decoration Allowance that a landlord may pay for the condition of the new home. Financial Assistance 300 For accepting a home with one less bedroom 400 For each subsequent bedroom given up 800 For removal costs to cover Packing and unpacking Van hire phone reconnection mail redirection white goods disconnection & reconnection Practical Assistance Helping with information & advice about the Downsizing Scheme Helping with form filling Helping with viewings and removal arrangements Helping with arrangements to disconnect & reconnect utilities Helping with notifications eg, change of address, GP, Bank Helping with arrangements and disposal of unwanted furniture Helping with Housing Benefit and income maximisation Helping with preparation of the new home 5. How to apply for the Downsizing Scheme Interested tenants should complete a Highland Housing Register Application Form if they have not already done so. This provides personal information about the circumstances and reasons for applying for a smaller home as well as details of the type & location of housing choices. Applications from households seeking to move to a smaller home will be assessed according to the demand and need for the property type, size and location of their current home. The relevant Highland Housing Register landlord will write to confirm when such applications are eligible for the Downsizing Scheme and that that payment and practical help will be made available once an offer of alternative housing has been accepted. A Housing Officer will make contact with eligible applicants to help them through the process of moving home. This will include information and advice about the possible timescales, starting to take practical steps to prepare for moving and building confidence for the move. LK 25/10/2010

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