NEW Forest District Council is changing its policy over the allocation of affordable housing to ensure it goes to those most in need.

The council says its current housing allocation policy "does not adequately allow for the allocation of housing on the basis of need".

Previously, a determining factor of the allocation of housing was the time spent on the housing register.

Councillor Jill Cleary, the portfolio holder for housing, said “This change is really important. The old allocation policy had four bands and all applicants, apart from in exceptional cases, were placed in ‘Band 3: Priority’, which meant that the only determining factor was the length of time the applicant had been on the register.

“This new way of allocating housing will mean that applicants are given appropriate priority to enable the most effective use of our housing stock, and so the people most in need of social housing are given priority.”

She added: “We need to make sure that social housing is allocated to those who have a genuine need for it, and at their time of need. This will mean that some applicants will see an increase in the priority awarded and others may see a decrease in their priority. 

“With up to 400 properties each year becoming available it’s important we have an allocation policy that fairly allocates housing, based on genuine need.” 

Councillor Ann Sevier, who represents the Fordingbridge ward, said: “Basically, the allocation policy we had in the past was not fit for purpose. The most important thing is people that need housing should be the people that get the housing. The length of time spent on the list was important but is now least important. Now we make sure people who really need housing go to the top of the list.”

The council says there are on average 300 properties per year that become available but applicants can wait up to 10 years to be allocated housing. 

A council spokesperson said: “The priority bands within our new allocations policy will give greater recognition to applicants’ situations of housing need, giving higher priority to more acute and urgent cases. This will help reduce waiting times below what is currently experienced. 

“There are many variables which affect waiting times, such as supply of vacant properties and their locations, for us to be able to give a target figure for reducing waiting times; however the range of initiatives we are putting in place should reduce how long a household typically waits in future. 

“We are not relying solely on the new allocations policy to reduce waiting times and manage demand. We have begun to deliver additional affordable housing as part of our commitment to provide 600 new homes over the next eight years and we are increasing our efforts to prevent homelessness in the first place with the addition of four new support workers.”