'Scottish social landlords must prepare for new allocations rules'
New rules on allocations and suspensions will require social landlords in Scotland to review their policies and make changes where necessary. CIH Scotland and housing research consultants Craigforth have been appointed by the Scottish Government to prepare practice guidance for landlords on the important change.
We spoke to Ashley Campbell, CIH Scotland’s policy and practice manager, to find out more.
What is changing?
The Scottish Government introduced new rules relating to allocations and suspensions in its Housing Act back in 2014 and they are going to be implemented over the next 18 months.
The provisions in the Housing Act replace the current ‘reasonable preference’ categories set out in the much earlier 1987 Housing Act, which outline the groups of people social landlords must give preference to when they allocate their homes.
Though the groups protected in the new legislation are comparable in many ways, there are some important distinctions. For example, social landlords will have the option to take property ownership into consideration when they make their decisions under the new provisions.
The changes provide an important update to the rules on allocations and suspensions for social landlords in Scotland.
Why is this important?
This matters for a number of reasons.
First of all, even if the principles of social housing haven’t fundamentally changed since the 1987 Housing Act, the world has – and it is necessary to reflect that in the legislation which applies to social landlords and in landlords’ allocations policies. We have to make sure that those who need social housing are dealt with fairly and consistently.
Secondly, it matters from the point of view of social landlords, all of whom need to make sure that their allocations systems and policies subscribe to the new provisions and don’t contravene any of the new provisions. That’s why we’re doing this piece of work.
Tell us more about the work we’re doing on the project.
We’re working with the Scottish Government and housing consultants, Craigforth, to make sure that landlords have all the guidance they need to be ready for the changes. We will be developing new practice guidance for allocations and suspensions, replacing previous versions published in 2009 and 2011.
The key thing for us is that the guidance must reflect the reality of housing practice on the ground. Things have changed significantly over the years and we will be seeking input from housing practitioners to ensure that the guidance we produce is practical and will help with the review of allocations policies and day to day decision making.
Of course, some elements of the provisions are completely new and there won’t be any existing practice to base our guidance on – particularly the ability for landlords to take property ownership into account - so we’ll also be working hard to make sure that we explore how this provision might be used by landlords and capture any emerging practice.
This is a great project for us to be involved in and it makes sense as the professional body that we would play a leading role.
What are the timescales for the changes?
The Scottish Government will shortly be introducing Commencement Orders for these parts of the Housing Act. We expect that landlords will have 12 months from this date to make sure that their policies comply with the new provisions so the deadline is likely to be around spring 2019
We’ll be announcing our plans to consult with landlords in the coming weeks and we would be really grateful if people can take part in that to help us to make sure the guide is practical and useful. We’ll then move forward with putting the practice guide together and we hope to have it completed by the summer.
- For more information on the project contact Ashley Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Scottish Government and the research team will be at the CIH Housing Festival from 27 – 28 February: anyone who wants to find out more can visit the Scottish Government stand or CIH Scotland stand.