13 Aug 2009

Choice in affordable housing moves one step closer

Below is the press release from Stroud District Council re the new system being introduced - I do believe this will be an improvement but still have some concerns re the more vulnerable who don't have access to the web.

Photo: Randwick horse!

Work has started this week on the introduction of a county-wide system to help people looking for affordable housing. At the moment, the six district councils in Gloucestershire have their own housing waiting lists but over the next two months Stroud, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Forest of Dean, Cotswold and Tewkesbury councils will put the finishing touches to a system that will give applicants more choice and allows homes to be let quicker.

Under the name 'Gloucestershire Homeseeker' the countywide approach will help people looking for affordable rented accommodation in a number of ways. Currently people on housing waiting lists are contacted to see if they are interested in properties when they become available. With the new system they will be able to look at properties that become available and put their names forward for them. Weekly adverts will be published showing available properties and homeseekers will then be able to express their interest via the internet, an automated telephone service or by text.

Gwen Russell, of Gloucestershire Homeseeker, commented: 'At the moment, people at the top of the housing list can often be offered homes which they are not interested in because of its size or location. This new approach will mean that offers will only go to people who have expressed interest in a property. By allowing them to choose which homes they are interested in, it makes the process much smoother. Another benefit of the countywide scheme is that it will allow some people to pick properties closer to families who may live in another part of the county. The current points-based system will be replaced by four different priority bands - bronze, silver, gold and emergency - according to someone's housing need. By combining this with choice, we hope to deliver a better service to everyone looking for affordable rented housing.'

Gloucestershire Homeseeker will replace the current system in September this year. Over 16,000 people are currently on waiting lists for housing across the county. Those on the current waiting lists will be automatically transferred into the new system and will need to activate their application with their existing details. From today, new applicants will be provided with information on how to sign-up, and any urgent advice and assistance on housing matters will continue as normal. Advice and support will also be available for users of the new system who do not have internet access to ensure that they can benefit from it.

Gloucestershire Homeseeker advertisements, publicising available homes, will be on display online and in public places such as council offices, parish councils and libraries. The councils are also looking for other outlets to display their weekly adverts and are keen to encourage anyone who is willing to display them to contact their local housing advice office.

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