APPENDIX ONE: CASE STUDY BACKGROUND
Aberdeen City - Homechoice
The development of a CHR in Aberdeen began in the early 1990s. In 1996 a limited company called Homechoice was established to provide a one stop Options Shop as part of the CHR. In March 2000 the Options Shop opened in Aberdeen City Centre. It offered co-ordinated housing information and advice.
By October 2000 the full CHR was launched. It involved six partners. In October 2007 the CHR effectively stopped operating, following the withdrawal of two RSLs in 2006 followed by another in 2007. The information and advice element of the Options Shop continued until July 2008.
Since 2004, the majority of the landlords operating in Aberdeen City have been participating in the development of a Common Housing Register in Aberdeenshire and Moray Council areas.
Aberdeenshire and Moray - Apply4Homes
Landlords in Aberdeenshire and Moray are developing the Apply4Homes CHR covering both local authority areas. It has nine participating partners. The partners aim to go live in 2009.
Since the Aberdeen City CHR (Homechoice) ceased operating in 2007, the Aberdeenshire and Moray CHR has expanded to cover the Aberdeen City area. All of the landlords operating in Aberdeen City except Aberdeen City Council are now participating in the development of Apply4homes. Aberdeen City Council has had some discussions with the partners involved Apply4homes, but there are no plans for the City Council to join in the near future.
Cairn Housing Association
Cairn Housing Association is a national housing association with over 3,000 homes under management across Scotland. It has stock in 30 of the 32 local authority areas in Scotland. It has participated in CHRs locally in varying ways. This guide draws out Cairn's experience in Edinburgh, Highland, Argyll and Bute and East Dunbartonshire.
The CHR for East Dunbartonshire has been in development since 2004 when a CHR co-ordinator was appointed with funding from the Scottish Government. The CHR is expected to go live in 2009.
The CHR model was developed after consulting with the 14 landlords operating in the area including national/regional RSLs and the Council. Some of the national/regional landlords did not wish to become full partners so it was decided to commence development of the CHR with a view to engaging other landlords at a later stage. The three main landlords hold 91% of the stock. The full partners for the CHR are East Dunbartonshire Council ( EDC), Antonine Housing Association and Hillhead Housing Association 2000.
Discussions to develop a CHR began in 2003 involving East Lothian Council, East Lothian Housing Association ( ELHA) and Homes for Life Housing Partnership (HfL) as local partners and Castle Rock Edinvar HA and Bield HA as the most significant regional/national providers. By 2006, the partnership had agreed a CHR model and was looking at options for creating greater commonality. However, discussions stalled at this stage. ICT issues had not been resolved and although an initial application form had been agreed some partners had concerns about the content and length. At this time the Council was undergoing restructuring and an allocations review and so CHR discussions were put on hold.
In spring 2008 discussions began again. By this time, three landlords ( ELHA, HfL and Castle Rock Edinvar) had decided to adopt Choice Based Lettings ( CBL) through the Homehunt system and Bield were actively considering engaging with SHOP (Scottish Housing Options) to deliver CBL. In the new context, the previously agreed model and form were no longer relevant. The Council is considering how it can contribute to a CHR in the area.
Edinburgh - EdIndex
EdIndex, the Edinburgh CHR, was launched in 2003. It is the largest operational CHR in the UK, initially bringing together 25 national and regional landlords operating in the area. Following mergers between landlords, there are now 21 landlords involved. Only very small or very specialised landlords are not involved. Almost two-thirds of the stock in the city is owned by the City of Edinburgh Council, and the Council has had a lead co-ordinating role to play in developing and delivering the CHR.
The CHR has developed substantially since its launch. Initially each partner retained their own allocation and assessment policies. Since then there has been recognition that having 25 separate allocations systems has made the development of the CHR (particularly the common application form and the supporting IT system) complex and potentially confusing for applicants. Partners have now developed a harmonised assessment of need for landlords using traditional allocations methods, and a co-ordinated Choice Based Lettings approach.
Fife Housing Register is one of the longer running CHRs in Scotland. Development of the FHR began in earnest in May 2002. Phase One of the CHR was launched in October 2006 with three partners: Glen Housing Association, Ore Valley Housing Association and Fife Council. Phase Two, which involved two new partners joining (Fife Special Housing Association and Kingdom Housing Association), was launched in November 2008. Altogether the five CHR partners have approximately 40,000 properties, representing 95 per cent of the social rented stock in Fife.
The CHR partners have developed a "common assessment of need" whereby applicants are pointed according to one system. Allocations are made according to partners' individual allocations policies. The common database is hosted on the Council's ICT system and all applications are processed by a central administration team at the Council.
Landlords in the Highlands first began discussing the possibility of a Common Housing Register in 2001. After seven years of development, the Highland Housing Register went live in May 2008. The CHR has six partners, and the main social landlords with housing stock in the Highland Council area are all involved. There are five other RSLs with specialist or low levels of stock in the area. Although involved with the register, they are not full partners. They participate in the HHR by buddying with the council who they ask to put forward applicants for some of their vacancies in the Highlands. Three of these RSLs also have their own housing list and people can apply to them directly.
As this guide was being developed the partners were beginning their planned six-month review of the Highland Housing Register. The review will explore the extent to which intended policy outcomes anticipated are being delivered.
The Argyll and Bute Common Housing Register Partnership was established in 2003. A subsequent feasibility study found that there was an overlap of 26 per cent between the housing lists of the local housing associations and the Council. This demonstrated that many people were interested in being housed by more than one landlord, and therefore that a joint way of working would provide better services for customers.
Since then, Argyll and Bute Council, and the four locally-based housing associations - Fyne Homes, West Highland Housing Association, Dunbritton Housing Association and Argyll Community Housing Association ( ACHA) - have all worked together to bring the concept to reality. HOME (Housing Options Made Easy) Argyll was launched in October 2006, involving:
- joined-up housing information and advice including a new website;
- a single housing application form; and
- a common housing allocation policy.
In mid 2007, the final element of HOME Argyll was introduced in the shape of a shared IT system which allowed applicant details to be shared among partners electronically.
The three core partners of the Midlothian CHR partnership, Midlothian Council, Melville Housing Association and Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association, began to develop their CHR in 2004-2009, with funding from the Scottish Government CHR Fund.
Following detailed discussion, the partners agreed that their main priority was to make the process easier for applicants. As a result, they agreed to focus their efforts on developing a common housing application form.
The common application form which they developed uses a simple system of scanning and sharing. Regional and national landlords participate through receiving nominations from Midlothian Council.
Perth and Kinross
Perth and Kinross was the first local authority in Scotland to establish a CHR having begun operating in 1995. The CHR has three full partners: Perth and Kinross Council, Perthshire Housing Association and Hillcrest Housing Association.
Development of the CHR has been led by the Council and initial development was characterised by informal arrangements between the Council and partners. This was followed by the establishment of centralised administration through the Central Allocations Team ( CAT). The most recent phase of development, supported by Scottish Government funding in 2004, has seen the improvement of the ICT system and the establishment of more formalised arrangements, including a Service Level Agreement ( SLA) and formal procedures for the sharing of CHR costs.
The Renfrewshire CHR was set up in 2003. The CHR in Renfrewshire involved Renfrewshire Council and the five Federation of Local Housing Associations in Renfrewshire ( FLAIR ) partners.
The CHR ceased operating in June 2007. The partners have continued to work together, considering how to provide a joined up service to applicants without incurring the negative impacts previously experienced through CHR development. The current focus is on how housing information and advice can be provided in a cohesive and complementary way. The partners are also beginning to discuss the potential of creating more commonality in housing allocation policies, to simplify the development of the CHR.
Renfrewshire was one of the first areas to implement a CHR in Scotland, having received funding through the Modernising Government Fund in April 2001. Discussions about a CHR in Renfrewshire had taken place since the 1990's. It was therefore a pathfinder and had few examples of experience and good practice to refer to from elsewhere.
Partners in West Dunbartonshire are working towards establishing a CHR. The CHR partnership in West Dunbartonshire involves West Dunbartonshire Council and eight core partners.
Having received funding from the Scottish Government, West Dunbartonshire appointed a CHR Co-ordinator to help facilitate the development of the CHR between August 2004 and August 2005. The West Dunbartonshire CHR Project Board was established during this period and formed sub-groups to progress particular aspects of the project.
In 2007, the partners took stock of their progress and agreed on a new approach which will place commonality at the centre of CHR development.
The West Lothian Housing Register came into being in September 2007. It involves three partners - West Lothian Council, Almond Housing Association and Weslo Housing Management. It includes a common housing application form and a common ICT system (Academy). One of the partners - Weslo - accepts 100 per cent nominations from West Lothian Council as an interim measure. This buddying arrangement operated efficiently for the first year of the CHR. Weslo and the Council hope that as a result of the Council's allocation policy review, they will both be able to use the same allocations policy.
In late 2008, the West Lothian Housing Register partners began to formally review how the Housing Register had been operating. In particular the partners are considering whether there are options for other RSLs to join the Housing Register, not necessarily as full partners. The review is also considering whether the process could be made more efficient and understandable for applicants, for example through increased commonality in policies.