Supplementary guidance has been issued to councils in England concerning the allocation of social housing to victims of domestic violence and abuse.
The guidance can be downloaded here.
This follows a consultation, to which a summary of the responses has also been published.
The key recommendation is that local authorities should exempt from residency or local connection qualification requirements those living in a refuge or "other form of safe temporary accommodation" in their district, who have escaped domestic abuse in another council area (paras 19, 24).
This is to ensure a 'consistent approach' in how applications from victims are treated across councils, which it is said will release refuge spaces and "help victims to have the confidence they need to leave an abusive situation" (paras 4, 12 and 24).
Which makes me wonder why the Government doesn't just legislate to include domestic abuse victims as one of the groups which cannot be the subject of a residency qualification.
In addition local authorities are:
Curiously it's suggested that the third bullet point above may reduce the 'incentive' for victims of abuse to seek homelessness assistance (para 28). It's unclear from the wording of the guidance how this will "reduce the pressure on homelessness services" given that:
Guidance is also given on the steps that may be required when assessing whether tenants can be protected and supported in their own home (paras 32 and 33).
At para 40 it's stated that legislation will be brought forward to ensure similar protections to those in the Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Act 2018 are provided where fixed term tenancies are offered on a discretionary basis to victims of domestic abuse.
In the meantime, authorities are encouraged to ensure that, when offering further tenancies to existing 'lifetime' social tenants because of domestic abuse, such tenancies are "granted on a lifetime basis".
Councils will need to review their allocation scheme in light of this guidance, and decide whether changes are required, to ensure they've had regard to its contents.
In terms of statutory guidance for the allocation of social housing we've now got:
The guidance would be clearer and easier to apply if it was in one place. The time has surely come for the guidance to be reviewed anyway, because of the homelessness changes and case law in the last five years.
All providers should be taking part, given the need for the profession to take stock of post-Localism Act practice, affordability issues and the exclusionary practices that often prevents those who are most in need from accessing social housing.