Choice based lettings could tackle housing inequality
Commenting on the Equality in housing and communities report published today by the Equality Commission, Nicola McCrudden, Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) director for Northern Ireland said: “Tackling housing inequality is fundamentally about building more homes, but we also need to look at how social homes are allocated. The current system can restrict a tenant’s choice to small and often segregated areas.
“Social housing is allocated using a points-based system – the more points a prospective tenant is awarded, the higher their housing need. However, there are not enough homes to house everyone waiting for social housing. The length of time people have to wait depends on the area they want to live in. In some areas people can wait for years, which is unacceptable“Social housing applicants can choose up to two areas of preference and allocations are made in accordance with the Housing Selection Scheme rules. When a property becomes available, the offer is made to the person with the highest points – or date order where points are equal.
“The report published by the Equality Commission is very important and highlights the fact that there aren’t enough social homes to rent – particularly in high demand areas such as west Belfast and areas of north Belfast. We need to look at ways of increasing housing supply in areas of need and offering people a wider choice of areas. Applicants get three offers of accommodation – refusal rates can be high and is normally due to the property’s location.
“Choice based lettings may be a way of widening out choice so that applicants can freely choose to be considered for houses as they become available. This system is working well in south Dublin for example, which has seen refusal rates drop from 50 per cent to five per cent. Applicants express an interest in a vacant property and the offer is made to the household with the highest points.
“The absence of a Stormont Executive won’t improve this situation and we remain optimistic that the current talks process will lead to the restoration of an effective government.”