I wrote in March about the government’s intention to re-introduce residential qualifications in social housing. On 31st December the DLCG released new guidance for England and a statement that, although this a matter for local authorities to decide:
The Secretary of State believes that including a residency requirement is appropriate and strongly encourages all housing authorities to adopt such an approach.
The objections to this are long-standing; central governments have been arguing against these restrictions since 1945. Giving priority to ‘hard working’ local families leaves out some other important categories of people – former psychiatric patients, prisoners, women fleeing domestic violence, people moving to find work and, of course, people unfortunate enough to live in neighbouring local authorities. The Guidance nods in the direction of making allowances for special hardship; equally, it nods in the direction of excluding people on higher incomes or owner-occupiers. There is no evidence that local authorities have to make extensive provision for people outside their area; the effect of restrictions is to force people to apply as homeless, because it is the only avenue through which they can be housed. Overall, however, allocations policies can only distribute the housing that’s there, and this measure will do nothing to help to meet the need.